Back in April 0f 2022, a large dragon sculpture descended on its perch on D Street behind the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, next to the Lawn on D. The $150,000 sculpture was commissioned by the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) under the leadership of Executive Director David Gibbons, as a public art installment.  Last week, the Dragon on D disappeared. It was carted off on the back of a flatbed truck to be put into storage.  Why, you ask? Well, let’s give you the backstory of this sculpture and the struggle for green space in this part of the neighborhood. 

The sculptor Christopher Williams wrote on his website about the sculpture: 

A symbol of deliberate strength, this dragon sculpture will keep watch over the BCEC Garden in South Boston. Greeting the guests of the garden with proud confidence.  For generations, the “Dragon on D” sculpture will inspire our youth and provide a place for reflection for those who’ve seen the years go by.  Such a fun discovery to find while out for the day.  He will command pause if just for a moment.  This sculpture was created in forged bronze and detailed with varying textures.  The total approximate height is 18’, with a 20’ wingspan.  Very excited to have created this wonderful beast for the MCAA.

The Dragon on D hardly lasted less than two years in its spot, let alone “generations,” but the real question is, why was it there in the first place?

The topic of the pricey dragon sculpture was included in a Globe article last year about a lack of diversity and questionable spending practices at the MCCA and BCEC.

“Someone at the MCCA may need their head examined,” said City Councilor Michael Flaherty. “Time for the new administration to look under the hood and put an end to the Convention Center’s wasteful spending.”

In the article, the MCCA officials defended the sculpture, stating the money came from a special art fund, not its operating budget. 

Over the past few years, many residents reached out to local elected officials and made posts on social media to complain about the dragon and wanted to know the significance of it to the neighborhood.  

Recently, at an MCCA meeting about the Cypher Street Soil Remediation Project, the topic of green space promised to the neighborhood was brought up, and the subject of the Dragon on D reared its head. Senator Nick Collins, who was in attendance at the meeting, pressured John Donahue, Director of Capital Investments for the MCAA, to see the plans for the green space promised to the neighborhood as part of the remediation project.  You can watch the video here (around 50-minute mark).

“We want to see your plan before you start digging things up.  We want to see the plan for Cyper Street that you say is going to be wonderful and beautiful before you move forward with this project and open this street up,” said Collins in the meeting video.  

Ellie Kasper from the Lower End/St. Vinny’s Neighborhood Association (LESVNA) was also in attendance at the meeting and brought up the dragon.  “As part of the landscaping plan, can you remove the dragon?” she asked.

“Why would you make a capital investment in that (dragon) and not in green space?” added Collin in the video, referring to the neighborhood asking for green space in the part of the neighborhood for over 20 years.

When pressed for who made the public art request for the dragon to be commissioned, Donahue stated it was Gibbons – and now the $150,000 dragon is gone.

“Spending taxpayer funds on such a bizarre structure without any community or stakeholder engagement would be outrageous at any time. What makes this even more egregious is it happened during a time when the convention center was losing tens of millions of dollars in revenue while closed during the pandemic, and heavy taxpayer subsidy was needed,” said Collins.

We reached out to the BCEC to find out if they knew the dragon’s whereabouts – “The dragon statue was moved into storage while the MCCA looks to re-vision the garden area adjacent to the Lawn On D in partnership with the community,” said Dave Silk, the MCCA’s Director of Communications & External Relations.

Back in December, it was announced that the MCCA Board unanimously voted to approve Gloria Cordes Larson to serve as interim executive director – replacing Gibbons until a permanent director is found.  So, under new leadership, things are moving in the right direction for a new park.

The MCCA, in collaboration with LESVNA and the Fort Point Neighborhood Association (FPNA), will be building a new greenspace around the BCEC perimeter in addition to a buffer zone park on Cypher Street with Massport’s trees on the south side of Cypher Street – similar to the Massport Thomas Bulter Park on East First Street.

“After many meetings and full support from Sen. Collins, the BCEC has agreed to make some much-needed changes. First, the ‘dragon” that was at the edge of the property on D Street that said to the neighbors and guests, “Stay off my property,” has been removed.  I thank them for that.  Since they and Massport are making changes to Cypher Street, they have agreed to install a new park, adding benches and trees, with a committee in place to work with the landscaping contractor that has been hired to complete these changes.  So, for now, we have progress and a commitment!   I hope to see it through,” said Kasper. 
Tom Ready from the Fort Point Neighborhood Association, who was also in attendance at the sometimes heated Cypher Street meeting, was grateful for the advocacy of Senator Collins and was happy with the news that Massport and the MCCA agreed to significantly improve the streetscape of the streets around the Convention Center, specifically D Street, Cypher Street, and West Service Road.
When asked about the dragon, City Councilor Ed Flynn, who represents South Boston, stated, “We are thankful to the BCEC board and leadership team for listening to the South Boston community on this issue.” 
“Kudos to the MCCA’s new board and executive director for beginning the necessary reforms to regain the trust of taxpayers,” added Collins.
It so it looks like there will be some much-needed greenspace in this part of the neighborhood!  As for when and where the Dragon on D will resurface, it is anyone’s guess – maybe it can be gifted to Boston Latin Academy – home of the BLA Dragons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Comments

  1. Phil February 22, 2024 at 4:54 pm - Reply

    OK, the money is spent. Why remove the statue to storage? What does it accomplish?

  2. Karen February 22, 2024 at 7:33 pm - Reply

    Dragons bring Luck and good fortune – art is. a sign of culture

  3. Linda Lynch February 23, 2024 at 7:37 am - Reply

    I actually like the dragon, something different, a conversation piece. There is art all over the streets in downtown Boston, why can’t we have a piece in South Boston.

  4. Linda Lynch February 23, 2024 at 11:06 am - Reply

    Phil, I agree with, now it sits in a storage unit somewhere for who knows how long. Unfortunately, they removed the statue because some of the people, in that neighborhood, complained about the cost and spending that money unwisely. Again, I say I like the statue.

  5. Donna February 23, 2024 at 4:23 pm - Reply

    I loved the Dragon on D! Need to keep it in Southie and display it! It is a work of art and absolutely beautiful! Put it some place like Fort Independence at Castle Island, so all can enjoy?!?!

  6. Kevin Hathaway February 23, 2024 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    Much better looking than the
    MLK Embrace!
    DRAGON ARE BEAUTIFUL !

  7. Joe Cappuccio February 27, 2024 at 4:53 am - Reply

    Where are the plans for the green space and open space? Why is the only environmental group in our community ignored by the, MCEC?

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