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"Celebrating the Marshland"

Rosenberg, Lilli Ann

Central Square/Cambridgeport, Mural

Central Square Library

Title: Celebrating the Marshland 
Date: 1982 
Materials: Tiles, clay pieces, found objects, and impressions of block letters 
Dimensions: 80" x 30 1/2"
Location: 45 Pearl St. Outside the entrance from the Martin Luther King Plaza

"When the English shiploads began arriving in 1630, the river near the present Harvard Square wound inland twice a day and was bordered on both sides by broad salt marshes. And the site later to be occupied by M.I.T. contained oyster beds so large that they interfered with navigation."

- Max Hall, The Charles, The People's River, 1986.

Seeing and experiencing

Located on the side of the Central Square library, Lilli Anne Rosenberg's colorful mosaic reminds us that Cambridge did not always have an urban landscape.

Mosaic is an ancient art form. Traditionally, it involves embedding pieces of glass and ceramic tile in a surface to create a mural. In addition to glass and ceramic tile, Rosenberg's mosaic includes a few unusual materials. How many materials do you see?

Touch the mosaic's surface. What different textures can you feel? This mural includes objects that the artist found and ones that she made herself. Can you find each kind?

What elements reflect Cambridge's past as a marsh? What other objects could you add to remind viewers of this site's history?

The mural is divided into sections. How do these sections give the piece a sense of movement? What do these different tiers represent? What colors are prominent in these sections? Does the color add meaning?

Why do you think the artist included a child reading a book? Can you find the pieces of mirror? Why did the artist include them?


What you will need:
Newsprint paper, crayons.

Close your eyes and touch the piece. Guess what you are feeling. Now make a rubbing of the entire piece. Is it easier to create rubbings of some parts but not others? What is your favorite part of the piece?


What you will need:
Large piece of cardboard, different textures (sandpaper, shapes cut out of cardboard, string, etc.), scissors, glue (gel medium works best), white acrylic or latex paint, black tempera or printmaking ink, wooden spoon, paper.

Artists explore texture in their work by using a range of objects that suggest different sensory experiences.

Create a texture collage out of found materials. Arrange different textures on the big piece of cardboard. When you are satisfied with your composition, glue it down. Make sure to use a lot of glue so that the objects stick well.

Now paint the whole surface with the white paint. Once it is dry, paint it black with the tempera paint or printmaking ink. Place a piece of paper on top. Rub the paper with the back of a wooden spoon or your fist. Pick up the piece to see your texture print.


What you will need: 
Shallow rectangular bucket, sand or mud, small objects (seashells, stones, bottlecaps, etc.).

Fill the bucket with wet sand or mud. Look at the shapes and colors of your small objects. Think about how you might arrange them to make an interesting design. Press the objects into the wet sand and mud. You can leave them or make impressions by pressing an object into the surface and then taking it out (this works well with clay, too).

You can create a more permanent mosaic by pressing objects into plaster of Paris or cement.


What you will need: 
Ten 8.5" x 11" sheets of paper; pencils, pens or crayons; glue or tape; two wooden dowels

Two other artworks explore Cambridge's vanished marshes. One is a sculpture by Kitty Wales and the other is a painting by Lisa Houck. Visit these other sites to see how artists create very different artworks from the same source of inspiration.

Many people in Cambridge do not know about the marshes. Create a poster that explains this history. As a starting point, use the information on the panels near Rosenberg's piece. How would you explain the story in a way that was interesting to kids?