Encircling this gleeful depiction of the couple is the 6,000-square-foot 1965 Freedom Plaza, named to commemorate that year’s Freedom Rally, which concluded in the Boston Common and was led by King and joined by Bostonians. Made of 1,600 diamond-shaped granite pavers that allude to African American quilting traditions, the plaza honors an additional 69 local Civil Rights leaders, who worked between 1950 and 1970 to advance the cause, via a bronze plaque. It also serves as a public archive: Activated at the site, a downloadable audio experience by Embrace Boston and Art Processors will uncover their previously untold stories.
The scale of the monument commands attention but is also sensitive to its existing environment, says Jonathan Evans, MASS Design Group principal and lead architect for the project. It is sited within its “much-loved landscape” with the preservation of robust trees in mind. At 20 feet tall, The Embrace rises to just below the tree canopy; nestled into the park, it becomes a place to discover. With a chemical patina and wax spread atop the bronze, it has a slightly sheened amber color that relates to its weathered neighboring sculptures but is unique as one glimpses it through the trees.
“There are layers to its meaning for peace,” says Evans, and there are also layers to the overall design. “Working together to ground the piece with an architectural plaza and the stories within it, it’s not just a monument to a man and a woman, but a monument that tries to make you feel, tries to inspire you to take action and be a participant in making the world better.”
Embrace Boston executive director Imari Jeffries concurs: “Monuments, memorials, and artwork have the ability to transform cities. We wanted a monument that would connect Boston’s residents through the lens of racial equity.”