Olmsted Now: Greater Boston's Olmsted Bicentennial Focuses on His Justice Legacy

Jen Mergel
Jen Mergel

NPS Photo

In development since 2019, Greater Boston's Olmsted Bicentennial focuses on Frederick Law Olmsted's contemporary relevance through the lens of his justice work with, in Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s words "the fierce urgency of now." Learn how organizers focused on the context of Boston's history, the triple pandemics of health, economic and racial injustice in our present, and the realities of our climate future to center bicentennial plans in equity and community. This presentation will outline bicentennial pillars of partnership, power-sharing, co-learning and collaborative park experiences that explore themes of shared use, shared health and shared power in parks and public space. Highlights will include exemplary projects of how Greater Boston is learning to collaborate differently to break down silos and reconnect in our public greenspace.


Jen Mergel is a nationally respected Boston-based contemporary art curator and cultural leader working to expose her hometown’s histories and collaboratively reimagine its futures through an equity and empowerment lens. She has organized more than 50 exhibitions for museum, academic and citywide venues. Her latest curatorial projects focus on Boston’s Black Feminisms, Exquisite Corpse collaborations in times of pandemic, and exploring histories of spatial justice through the forthcoming Olmsted Bicentennial in 2022. Mergel’s recent roles include: Vice President for the Association of Art Museum Curators, Guest Editor for Boston Art Review Magazine: The Public Art Issue, Curator of The Armory Show’s public Platform Section, and Guest Curator of the award-winning citywide exhibition Fog x FLO: Fujiko Nakaya on the Emerald Necklace. From 2010-2017, Mergel headed the Contemporary Art Department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, after prior curatorial roles at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, and Addison Gallery at Phillips Academy, among others. In 2017, she left the museum context to found the Curatorial Network Accelerator of Boston. She now serves as the inaugural Director of Experience and Cultural Partnerships for Boston’s Emerald Necklace Conservancy, where she builds the non-profit’s capacity to co-create more impactful and inclusive park experiences through partnerships with history-keepers, change-agents and thought-leaders in public-making through art, design and culture. Mergel graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University, received her M.A. from Bard’s Center for Curatorial Studies, and is a Fellow of the Center for Curatorial Leadership.

Last updated: April 5, 2022