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'Memory/Diffusion' by MASARY Studios

The City commissioned MASARY Studios for interior artwork at the new Boston Arts Academy in the Fenway neighborhood.

The artwork was installed in September 2022 and voted into the City's collection by the Boston Art Commission in March 2023. This is one of two new public art projects commissioned for the school.

Project details

Project Context

Boston Arts Academy is Boston’s only public high school for the visual and performing arts. It provides a diverse student body access to a college-preparatory arts and academic education. 

This project was funded through the City’s Percent for Art program. The total project budget was $375,000. It complemented the City’s $125 million construction of a new building for Boston Arts Academy in the Fenway neighborhood. The state-of-the-art facility at 174 Ipswich Street includes:

  • dedicated rehearsal and performance spaces
  • gallery space
  • studios for music, visual arts, and fashion design
  • academic classrooms, and
  • recreation areas, kitchens, and student commons.

Boston Arts Academy ribbon cutting photo
Photo from Boston Arts Academy ribbon cutting in October 2022.
Project Site

The interior project site is a monumental stairway. It runs from the first to second floor in the center of the building, near the front entrance. 

The school is located in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston. This area is part of the Fenway Cultural District. There are many cultural and educational institutions within walking distance, including:

  • Berklee School of Music
  • New England Conservatory
  • Massachusetts College of Art + Design
  • School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts
  • Emerson College
  • Fenway Park
  • The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and
  • Frederick Law Olmstead’s Emerald Necklace of parks.
Commissioning Process

The City released a Call for Artists for two public art projects at the site in October 2019. Several artists were invited to interview with an Artist Selection Committee. The Committee was comprised of:

  • representatives from the Boston Art Commission
  • local arts professionals representing the neighborhood, and
  • professional and student end-users of the project site. 

The Artist Selection Committee selected:

  • MASARY Studios for the interior artwork, and 
  • Simon Donovan and Ben Olmstead for exterior artwork. 

The Boston Art Commission voted to approve both artists for the commissions.

Design Phase

The artists were encouraged to consider Boston Arts Academy’s four shared values in their artwork:

  1. Community with social responsibility
  2. Diversity with respect
  3. Passion with balance
  4. Vision with integrity

The projects were also required to include a robust educational component in their processes. 

Exterior Public Art Project

In addition to Memory/Diffusion, the City commissioned Simon Donovan and Ben Olmstead to create an exterior artwork. They installed The Creative in December 2022. It is located at the corner of Ipswich Street and Van Ness Street, on the public sidewalk.

Photo from installation of "The Creative" by Simon Donovan and Ben Olmstead
Photo from installation of 'The Creative' by Simon Donovan and Ben Olmstead.

Learn more about 'The Creative' 

Existing artworks

There are also several existing artworks at the site:

  • “Dream Catching” by Wen-Ti Tsen is a sculpture that had been previously installed on the façade of the old Boston Arts Academy building. The design consists of a series of bronze-plate cultural figures and mirror-finished, stainless steel plates. The original installation was completed in 2004. The project included a four-month residency working with students of the school. The artwork has been resited in an internal stairwell in the new building. It is visible from the school’s primary entrance and from the commons area around the monumental stairway.
  • "Teammates" and "Carl Yastrzemski" by Antonio Tobias Mendez, and "Ted Williams" by Franc Talarico are across Ipswich Street. They are visible from the school's entrance.


"Dream Catching" by Wen-Ti Tsen
"Dream Catching" by Wen-Ti Tsen.

About the Artwork

MASARY Studio’s multimedia artwork, "Memory/Diffusion", was installed in the main atrium of the school. As a part of the everyday landscape for an arts school, the creative team behind "Memory/Diffusionquestioned how an artwork could evolve over the years and mirror the vibrancy and diversity of activity in the school. Through research, inventive technologies, and a keen interest in the concepts of memory developed by French philosopher Henri Bergson, MASARY set out to answer these questions and offer new speculation through this contemporary artwork.

"Memory/Diffusion" is anchored by a 20-foot dynamic LED screen. It has both a custom lighting design and a real-time visual system. The artwork uses camera input to perceive the environment in front of it. The piece constantly absorbs what moves in front of it using:

  • state-of-the-art machine learning techniques
  • custom software, and
  • real-time graphics.

It then composites and renders these stored image “memories” as a reminder and reflection on what came before.

Final design of Memory/Diffusion by MASARY.
Final design of "Memory/Diffusion" by MASARY.

Photo of Mayor Wu with MASARY team in front of "Memory/Diffusion"
Photo of Mayor Wu (center) with MASARY Studios team members Caleb Hawkins (left) and Ryan Edwards (right) in front of "Memory/Diffusion".

"I had the opportunity to interact with some of the students, the students were coming out of class when I was there. And just at random I said, 'What do you think of this?' And they gave [the artwork] the best endorsement: 'Super. Super cool.' Smiles on their face as they said it. And it is more than super cool. The sculpture itself is magnificent. To have it all of a sudden project these memories of movement and music, there's something so wonderful about what [MASARY Studios] has created."

- Commissioner Robert Freeman speaking on final acceptance of Memory/Diffusion at the March 2023 Boston Art Commission meeting

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