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UrbanArts, Inc. records

 Collection — Container: Records
Call Number: FA 2015.02

Scope and Contents

This collection provides a comprehensive history of the public art activities of Boston and is a vital resource for scholars and historians of public art administration, urban planning, and contemporary Boston history.

The UrbanArts, Inc. records are comprised of visual materials such as photographs, slides, negatives, contact sheets, and samples of artwork, as well as administrative records such as business correspondence; publicity (posters, pamphlets, flyers, published reports, manuscripts and galleys); artist contracts; and annual reports. There are newspaper clippings documenting the activities of the institute and a small amount of oversized materials. Audiovisual material includes audiocassettes of oral history interviews documenting the Orange Line as well as VHS recordings of various public arts projects.


  • 1970-2014

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research, but some materials in this collection are restricted and unavailable to researchers due to Personally Identifiable Information (PII). Access to content stored on audiovisual and electronic storage media in the collection is also currently restricted. Boxes containing restricted material includes boxes 40-42, 43-48, 50-51, 57, and 107A. Contact the Archives Department for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Items in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. In most cases, the Boston Public Library does not hold the copyright to the items in our collections. It is the sole responsibility of the user to make their own determination about what types of usage might be permissible under U.S. and international copyright law.

Biographical / Historical

UrbanArts, Inc. was an independent, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in Boston, Massachussetts affiliated with Massachusetts College of Art and Design. An award winning non-profit, UrbanArts has a 30 year history of managing and implementing temporary and permanent works of public art and design. Founded in 1980 by Pamela Worden, the UrbanArts mission was based on the belief that the cultural vitality of communities depends on incorporating the arts in the public realm, by engaging artists and citizens. The alliance in 1999 of UrbanArts with the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, provided a unique and revitalized platform from which to promote this ideal. The organization has been widely recognized for its important contributions to the revitalization of urban America. Award citations from the American Institute of Architects, the US Department of Transportation, the President's Commission of the Arts and Humanities, the Boston Society of Architects, and the City of Boston recognize the high quality of art produced as well as the unique way in which UrbanArts engages communities in the design process, encouraging citizens to become full players in planning for the future of their communities.

UrbanArts designed and managed projects for the City of Boston, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the Massachusetts Highway Department, the Massachusetts Port Authority, and countless neighborhood organizations. In addition, UrbanArts maintains the largest and most diverse artists slide registry in the region. Notable projects undertaken by UrbanArts include Arts in Transit, installing public art works in the Southwest Corridor of the Orange Line MBTA route; YouthWorks/Art Works programs, providing children and young adults in Boston with the opportunity to work with professional artists and experience art in new ways; and the Central Artery Artery Arts Project, installing public artworks into the highway infrastructure and the pedestrian environment.

In 1994 UrbanArts recieved the Commonwealth Award, and in 1995, received an Institute Honors award from the American Institute of  Architects, presented for “distinguished achievements that  benefit the environment and the architectural profession,”  noting in particular UrbanArts’s strong advocacy for citizen participation in the city design process and its role as a liaison between the public and those who make public policy. UrbanArts led the artist selection for South Boston Maritime Park, which won a National Honor Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects in 2006. In 2007, Americans for the Arts  granted a Year in Review award for the Honan-Allston Library Bike Rack and Tree Guards project.

UrbanArts was supported in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency supporting the arts, humanities, and sciences.


300 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The records is organized into four series: Series I. Administration, Series II. Programming and project files, Series III. Publications and publicity, and Series IV. Oversize material. The material is arranged chronologically within each series.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Massachusetts College of Art, 2013 August 29.

Processing Information

This electronic finding aid is transcribed from legacy data. In many cases, transcriptions were not verified against collection materials at the time of transcription. As a result, this finding aid could be incomplete and might only reflect a partial understanding of the material.

The records were inventoried and arranged into four series prior to donation to the Boston Public Library by Paul Dobbs, Library Director at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and Matthew Hincman, Associate Professor at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. The collection was further arranged chronologically within each series during the creation of the finding aid.

Statement on harmful description

Archival description reflects the biases of time periods and cultures in which it was created and may include direct quotations or descriptions that use inappropriate or harmful language. Creator provided descriptions may be maintained in order to preserve the context in which the collection was created and/or used. Legacy description and potentially offensive content may be made available online until a collection can be reprocessed because the access that they provide to primary source materials is uniquely valuable to the research community at large. Our efforts to repair outdated descriptions and to describe our collections more equitably are iterative and ongoing.

Guide to the UrbanArts, Inc. Records
Margaret Phalen, under the supervision of Eve Griffin.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2023-01-26: Several box-level scope and contents notes were updated by Archivist Crystal Rodgers as materials were consolidated during preparation of requested boxes for reading room access. Access restrictions notes were also added for boxes containing PII or format-based restrictions as well as additional Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements notes, as applicable.

About this library

Part of the Boston Public Library Archives & Special Collections Repository

700 Boylston Street
Boston MA 02116 United States