What's the deal with the hand at Park Street?

Hand at Park Street

Shana Sissel, who took this photo, wonders:

Does anyone know the significance of the black hand over the red line at Park Street Station?





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On Twitter, William Ricker replies:

The hand is a papal blessing, commemorative of Pope John Paul II 's open-air Mass on Boston Common, Oct 1, 1979.

Kat Monaghan points us to Public Art in Transit for other examples of artwork at T stops.


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The twitter response is horse hockey. The name of the sculpture(s) is called Benediction. (One for each track)

It was placed in the station as part of a mandated public arts program in the mid 1980's.

The form of the hand is to signify blessings to the people getting on the train. The artist/sculpture was profiled in a Globe article many years ago but I cannot recall when it ran.

The only marker in the area for the Pope's visit is over by the crosswalk between the Common and the Public Garden. There is a carved monument outside the garage entrance for the pope's visit on a cloudy day that became very rainy day in October 1979. If memory serves me correct is was placed there by the Order of Alhambra.

Cool. I had never really

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Cool. I had never really thought much about it and would've guessed "sign language" (though I will admit I was never so interested as to actually look it up and see if it corresponded to any letters/words in ASL).

As to JPII, one off-site reminder of that visit is the chair he used that rainy day, which is used at St. Peter's in Dorchester.


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this is the truth. Helmick watched T workers give hand signals during reconstruction in the 80's, when they had to disable light signals. He interpreted the hand signals as "Benedictions" and decided to have sculptures of these gestures hang over for eternity.

real real truth

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The truthiest truth of the sculpture is that it is an homage to Saint Moses Horowitz who held off a pack of rampaging pagans with nothing but eye pokes. Bendiciones, oy.

Hailing hand

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Did the pope also hail? Because there's another hand that looks like the hand gesture when one goes - "heil Hitler!" Don't know why they don't show that one to talk about.


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I was under the impression that they were to signify the the track numbers. There's two hands. one with one finger and another with two fingers. One over the corresponding tracks.


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...aren't the red line tracks numbers five and six?

Sure, but

you subtract four, because there are four branches of the Green Line upstairs.


The sculptures are called

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The sculptures are called "Benedictions" (1989) by Ralph Helmick (active 1983-present). According to a Globe interview, Helmick explained: the hands offer a nondenominational blessing of sorts to riders and the staff of the T. When the work was done - two universal gestures of peace and benediction sited in a very busy public place"

The hand

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That hand is in such an out of the way place way down at the end of the platform that many people don't even know it's there. Not like those unexplainable glove things on the escalator at Porter.

they are a nice little treat

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they are a nice little treat when you walk all the way to the end of the platform to avoid the crowds at the front.

O Bummer

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It is all the way at the end of the platform so you can't see it? Awwwwwww. It is halfway down the platform. Sorry they didn't move all those pesky Green Line tracks above to get you a better view of the artwork from the "other" end of the platform. I've known that is has been there since at least 1986. I used to see it every time I got on at Park Street when I had to wait to go to home.

The "Glove Thing at Porter" is the bronzing of the gloves of the workers who labored to build the tunnel and the station. A tribute to the sandhogs and other workers who got that job done. It is a great piece of public art over some abstract piece of sheet metal that passed for urban artwork in the 1970's.

Your double this is not cool enough for me comments above are some of the douchiest non-racist comments I have ever seen posted on this site. Hopefully the MBTA can consult with your essence 30 years in the past so they can check if these pieces past muster with you.

Porter Square T station public art

I don't know if your "abstract piece of sheet metal" comment is intended to refer to the big red rotating wind-driven sculpture at street level, but I think that's a pretty cool thing as well. It's a landmark that you can see from some distance away, telling you "This is Porter Square".

No - Wasn't Talking About The Gloves

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No, The Knetic sculpture at Porter is great. The Porter Square thing is what someone called the gloves that are along the escalator in an earlier post.

When I think of bad sheet metal art I think of the folded pieces of metal that used to be in the traffic island between 18 Tremont and One Center Plaza at the intersection of Court and Tremont.

Somewhere in Downtown Crossing, either in the Concourse or on the Red Line platforms there was another piece of crap that was called "Explosion" which looked like three HVAC diffussers cover in dust. Luckily that went away, I think, I hope.

Gloves - Mags Harries

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The artist's website

I've always liked "The Glove Cycle" (its actual title), and the work of Mags Harries (and her partner, Lajos Heder) in general.

There was another piece, I believe also by Harries, that traveled. It was one standee pole in a Red Line car that appeared to have been crushed by the grip of a person holding it. Does anyone recall that? Better yet, does anyone know if it is still extant? I think it may have been in a car that is now out of commission.

(It was described in a book entitled "A Guide To Public Art In Greater Boston", by Marty Carlock, but I don't have that volume handy. Highly recommended, by the way, although probably a bit out of date by now.)


More on Mags Harries

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While Porter station was under construction, there was an exhibit of Mags Harries' work at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, which included some of the original "found" gloves that she turned into bronze castings. Harries said that they weren't gloves of tunnel workers, but rather gloves that she found along Cambridge and Somerville streets as the snowpiles melted away after the Blizzard of 1978. When they repaved the sidewalk in front of her house on Walden St. in Cambridge about 15 or 20 years ago, she convinced the workers to let her embed a cast bronze glove in the pavement there, too.

She also did the sculpture "Asaroton" which is in the pavement at 2 crosswalks near the Haymarket produce market (Hanover & Blackstone Sts., next to the Big Dig and the Greenway).

I have a photo somewhere of the standee pole that she put in a subway car. If I recall correctly, that pole was (by pure chance) in the train that was used for the first revenue trip to Braintree in 1980. I believe that the car is still in service but that standee pole was removed many years ago. I think it came out when the car's seating arrangement was redone.

By the way, there was another artwork at Porter station that was removed many years ago. It was a mobile made of a series of suspended panels with diffraction gratings that caught the sunlight and made moving rainbows. It hung just above the escalators that go down from the street level to the mezzanine, and under the glass roof of the entrance kiosk. The suspended panels and the strings they hung on got tangled and the T removed them for "safety" reasons, worried that the panels might fall down. (They were made of very thin sheet metal.) It was a beautiful piece and I was sad to see it go. The artist was Bill Wainwright, who passed away just a few days ago, according to a recent notice in the Globe. He also had a studio in Somerville, near Davis Square, which was destroyed when the building next to it (an ink factory) exploded about 14 or 15 years ago.


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Actually, I believe the gloves came from the T's lost and found.

Here's what the artist says it's about:

The abandoned gloves call to mind the gloves lost underneath winter snow and revealed again in spring appearing to have taken on a new life and history.

The separate glove events that occur throughout the station add up to a life cycle of the glove, a whimsical metaphor for the journey of life to death. In their odd and yet familiar scenes, the gloves reflect undercurrent aspects of the human life around them.

Of course it's art, so each individual interprets the piece with their own context.


I think those gloves are

I think those gloves are really creepy. For some reason they make me feel like they're a memorial to dead workers buried deep within the tunnels. Morbid, but true.

hand of God

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When I lived in Quincy we called it the hand of God. If you get on by the hand, the train will drop you right at the stairs in Wollaston station.

Handy reminder?

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LOL I always thought those were subtle reminders to the ridership about how the T has ulimited power to crush us like worms at any time it feels like it.

I always thought the fingers

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I always thought the fingers were just a lost part of either Fiedler on the Esplanade or the creepy three heads that loom over the tracks at Jackson Square. Kind of like the baby heads at the MFA, these disembodied body parts always weird me out.