Celebrating 4th Annual FACES Honoree Malcolm Rogers in the Fenway Cultural District

(L-R) Mark Kerwin, Malcolm Rogers
Photo credit: Sarah Nichols

Malcolm Rogers, the Ann & Graham Gund Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, was honored by The Fenway Alliance on November 12 at the MFA.  Mr. Rodgers was surrounded by festively dressed friends, colleagues and arts enthusiasts when he received the FACES award, Fenway Alliance Celebrates Exceptional Spirit.  This annual award was presented by Kelly Brilliant, the Alliance’s Executive Director.

When Mr. Rogers came to the Museum in l994, he began to influence the place of art and culture in the City of Boston.  As a board member of the Fenway Alliance, Malcolm became a champion leading the call in two areas: to have the entire area along the Fenway designated “The Fenway Cultural District,” a designation bestowed by the Massachusetts Cultural Council in 2012, and to have the major thoroughfare, Huntington Avenue, designated “Avenue of the Arts” a distinction that Mayor Menino made in l998.

These accomplishments are testimony to the ability of great civic leaders to agree on significant business, a collaboration that renews the spirit of all people.

Also in l998, through the dedicated advocacy of Malcolm with several other Alliance members, the Avenue of the Arts underwent a major facelift in a state and city-funded $22 million renovation and beautification project that installed all new transit lines, placed 612 trees along the Avenue, added antique street lighting, benches and various other amenities for our residents, student residents, 50,000 employees, and the millions of visitors who enjoy our District each year.  The MFA along with the other Huntington Avenue institutions now care for all the trees and greenery on the Avenue.

On March 20, 2012, the Massachusetts Cultural Council—the Commonwealth’s highest political Office for the Arts—designated the Fenway Cultural District the first Cultural District in Boston, and the first among five across the Commonwealth.  This designation could not have come about without Malcolm and the MFA’s involvement, and one that was certainly aided by Director Roger’s accomplishments, including a multitude of free programs developed to inform, inspire and delight the public, capped off by the construction of the Art of the Americas Wing which added 53 new galleries and renovated the west wing as the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art.

Malcolm has also been a leading advocate for the $92 million Muddy River Restoration Project whose area spans Boston’s Back Bay, the Fenway Cultural District, and the Town of Brookline.  This major environmental project is a partnership of the City of Boston, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Town of Brookline, and is designed to significantly reduce flooding and restore the historic Frederick Law Olmsted Muddy River Park and Parklands—a shining link in the glorious Emerald Necklace.

Recently, funding for the full project has been at risk due to Congressional gridlock among other issues. Under Malcolm Rogers’ leadership, just two weeks ago, the MFA was one of the first Fenway Alliance institutions to come to the Project’s aid, writing to President Barack Obama urging him to ensure its completion.  Let’s hope this is another case of strong civic minds thinking alike!

This year’s FACES supports the 14th anniversary of The Fenway Alliance’s Opening Our Doors, the largest day of free cultural experiences in Boston which invites 14,000 people into the neighborhood in a grand celebration of the Arts—65 cultural activities take place in 17 venues around the Fenway Cultural District.

The metaphor of opened doors for our annual event was inspired by Malcolm Rogers’ opening of the front doors of the Museum on Huntington Avenue that had been shuttered for over a decade prior to his coming on board.  This was a significant symbol-turned-metaphor and a very real gift to our neighborhood.

And we purposely chose Columbus Day for Opening Our Doors, because it was a day that Malcolm traditionally opened the doors of the MFA for free.  Kelly knew there would be a solid base of neighborhood attendees that could sustain this event due in large part to the MFA’s success in already achieving that.  This year, the MFA alone welcomed 6,558 attendees to Opening Our Doors Day!

(L-R) Malcolm Rogers, Kelly Brilliant
Photo credit: Sarah Nichols

Kelly’s closing remarks included a thanks to the musical group “So Distinct” from the Berklee College of Music, and praise to the Bravo Restaurant’s staff for sumptuous food and great service.  More thanks went to the Museum’s Deputy Director and CFO Mark Kerwin for his help in celebrating the esteemed honoree, Malcolm Rogers, who has made the Museum so memorable and so alive.

And finally to Malcolm, a thanks not only from The Fenway Alliance but also from the whole City for all he has done to make the MFA a cultural home in our neighborhood, just as much as he has made it a cultural home for the world.

 By Maureen George