Percent-for-Art Program

Implemented via City Ordinance, Percent-for-Art requires that one percent of the construction costs on municipal capital investment be designated for use in developing site-responsive public artwork. With a core focus on increasing the quantity, quality and overall awareness of art in the city’s public space, the Arts Council has overseen the creation and development of more than 200 artworks. These artworks can be found in a variety of locations including youth and senior centers, schools, libraries, parks, plazas and sidewalks. Artworks sited through this program engage directly with their surroundings to create, enrich, or reveal a sense of place. Each artwork is created in active response to the character and history of its location and reflects the dynamic and creative exchange between professional artists and the broader community.

Recent Public Art Projects

Learn More About the Collection

Cambridge Arts is happy to provide catered tours or meet virtually to provide information about Cambridge's collection of public art. Email us at

Public Art Tour Cards

Explore Cambridge Arts' public art collection with cards highlighting themed tours you can take throughout the city. Find art that engages the themes of activism or colors or nature or play. Discover tiny treasures and creative benches and artworks that are fun to explore by bicycle. View the tour cards.


Christopher Janney, Light Shadow: MLK
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. School (
102 Putnam Avenue)

Commissioned for the new Martin Luther King, Jr. and Putnam Avenue Upper Schools, Christopher Janney's Light Shadow: MLK is a 7-foot x 32-foot "urban musical instrument" designed to engage the school community in playful exploration. A computer model of the artwork will serve as a lab for STEAM learning, allowing students to reprogram the wall with their own light and soundscapes.


Mela Lyman
Anxiety of Beauty – Revisiting the Fountain of Youth
Paine Park (corner of Antrim and St. Mary)

Lyman mural in park

Beginning in February 2008, Cambridge-based artist Mela Lyman turned the Arts Council Gallery into her painting studio to re-create a large-scale mural for Paine Park (St. Mary Road, a few blocks from the Gallery). The public was able see how the mural evolved and continued to develop over many months. By creating open access to the creation of a public artwork, the artist and the Arts Council provided a unique view into the artist’s process and gave the artist an opportunity to connect with the public. The completed mural was installed in Paine Park in the spring of 2009. 


mela mural close up
(partially completed mural as seen in the Arts Council gallery)

Known for her paintings of swimmers, among other subjects, Mela Lyman’s most recognized public artwork is her painted circular frieze depicting swimmers, “Transported,” at the Water Shuttle Terminal at Logan International Airport in Boston. The artist returns to this signature theme with a new vision for the Paine Park mural, which Lyman created originally in 2001 through a commission from the Cambridge Arts Council’s Public Art Program. For the original mural completed in 2002, the artist also involved the public in the process. She worked with young children of the neighborhood, and incorporated their drawings into a “euphoric landscape,” physically attaching the drawings to the mural. Subsequent deterioration of the drawings and fading of colors led the artist to re-imagine her mural anew.

Mela Lyman’s work has been featured in numerous museums and galleries nationally, and has been reviewed in ARTFORUM, Art New England, and New Art Examiner, among other magazines and newspapers. She received her fine art degree from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where she is currently a professor. In addition to the Paine Park mural in Cambridge, MA (2002), her public arts commissions include a painted interior frieze, Water Shuttle Terminal, Logan International Airport, Boston (1994) and Simpkin Swim Center, County of Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA. (2002).