2020 Year in Review

Although 2020 provided us all with many challenges, here at the Esplanade Association we are grateful for the work we were able to accomplish this past year thanks to the support of our donors, members, volunteers, and partners at the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). As we embark on celebrating our 20th year as an organization, we’re reflecting on our incredible achievements in 2020—a year where the Esplanade was more indispensable than ever before. Read on below for our full year in review!

The Esplanade Association Celebrates 20TH Anniversary with Multi-Sensory Winter Illumination Experience at the Iconic DCR Hatch Shell

Boston-based creative studio MF Dynamics to debut “Hatched: Breaking through the Silence,” a projection-mapping and sonic public art work during 300+ outdoor showings on the Esplanade Jan. 22 to Feb. 21, 2021  

January 4, 2021 – Boston, MA – To mark the 20th Anniversary of the Esplanade Association’s successful public-private partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the Esplanade Association (EA) will present “Hatched: Breaking through the Silence,” a four week illumination and sound experience to provide a family-friendly and physically-distant celebration at the famed Hatch Memorial Shell. “Hatched” will cut through the darkness of the winter months, offering a public space for joy and optimism in the New Year. The work is an original 15-minute visual and sound performance led by Boston-based creative Maria Finkelmeier of MF Dynamics and is shaped specifically for the 80-year-old amphitheater itself.


Hatched is free and open to the public, taking place nightly from January 22 – February 21, 2021. Viewers will be able to tune in to the original synchronized soundtrack on their personal devices while watching the illuminations. The work, made possible by collaborations with LuminArtz and projector sponsor Epson, will begin nightly at 5pm and re-start every 20 minutes until 9pm ET, offering over 300 opportunities to enjoy the work in the open-air landscape of the historic Hatch Shell Oval Lawn.

Hatched is the fifth and most ambitious offering in the Esplanade Association’s public art program, which includes four art murals currently on view in locations throughout the 3.2-mile linear park. Public art has become a core element of the Esplanade Association’s mission to support the ongoing health and vitality of the 64-acre Charles River Esplanade through capital restoration work, park improvement projects, horticultural care, public programming, concessions enhancements, volunteer engagement, and much more. In total, the Esplanade Association has raised $16 million towards this work, which is accomplished through a public-private partnership with DCR. The partnership will mark twenty years of successful stewardship and collaboration on the second-to-last night of Hatched on February 20, 2021.

“This year the Esplanade was as essential as ever before to the physical health and mental well-being of our visitors,” said Michael Nichols, Executive Director of the Esplanade Association. “Hatched will provide a safe, open-air destination for people and their families to experience art while enjoying the tranquil beauty of the Esplanade in winter. This spectacular illumination experience is the perfect way to mark the Esplanade Association’s first 20 years of lighting the way forward for Boston’s riverfront park.”

The projection-mapped visuals for Hatched will celebrate the many sounds that Hatch Shell performers have expressed over the facility’s impressive musical history. Finkelmeier and her team will feature geometric shapes of musical instruments as kaleidoscope pieces, human hands magically tapping, scratching, and creating beats on the surface itself, and colorful animations accentuating the Shell’s Art Deco form – all set to new music composed by Finkelmeier and recorded by local musicians. Featuring a team of predominantly female-identifying artists and directors, Hatched will bring to light a balanced pedestal, an opportunity for underrepresented communities to “break through” and share their skills, vision, and voice.

Artistic Director and Composer of Hatched, Maria Finkelmeier, says, “Creating Hatched for one of my favorite pieces of architecture in the city has been a huge honor. When I think of the Hatch Shell, I envision gorgeous music, community, and a love for my city. Memories of concerts, walks, and bike rides along the Esplanade come to mind. With Hatched, my team and I are elated to create a new type of expression that brings original music, visuals, and new technology to the iconic structure, encouraging viewers to form a new memory of the space – a memory that will carry us into the New Year and beyond, celebrating creativity, resilience, and joy.”

“The Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Charles River Esplanade serves as an incredible natural resource offering countless recreational opportunities for visitors to enjoy year round,” said DCR Commissioner Jim Montgomery. “Engaging visitors in unique ways like public art displays ensures the park remains timeless, and the Baker-Polito Administration is pleased to continue its public-private partnership with the Esplanade Association.”

Powered by Epson laser projectors, “Hatched” will bring vibrant color and form to the inner surface of the Hatch Shell. With custom-built weather housing for the projectors, the experience presents a rare opportunity to experience projection mapping in the winter months and will bring joy no matter the New England winter weather.

More information:

WHEN: January 22, 2021 – February 21, 2021

TIMES: 5pm – 9pm ET, starting every 20 minutes at :00, :20, and :40

WHERE: Hatch Memorial Shell, Boston, MA 02108 (best reached on foot from the Arthur Fiedler Footbridge)

HOW TO ENJOY: On foot, along the Esplanade, while wearing a mask and maintaining physical distance from spectators outside your household. The DCR Hatch Shell cannot be accessed by car. There is no site parking or rideshare drop off on site.

Hatched: Breaking Through the Silence” is Commissioned and Presented by: 

The Esplanade Association is a nonprofit organization that works to revitalize and enhance the Charles River Esplanade, sustain its natural green space, and build community in the park by providing educational, cultural, and recreational programs for everyone. Working in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Esplanade Association is dedicated to improving the experiences of the millions of annual visitors who enjoy Boston’s iconic riverside park.

About the Artist Team:

MF Dynamics creates large-scale performative art works in public spaces and multimedia experiences at art and concert venues. The experimental studio is guided by Founder Maria Finkelmeier’s principles in creating new and meticulously crafted works that are narrative driven and socially responsive. MF Dynamics is dedicated to encouraging conversation and connection through visceral, ephemeral, yet unforgettable moments.

Project Partners:

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation manages state parks and oversees more than 450,000 acres throughout Massachusetts. It protects, promotes, and enhances the state’s natural, cultural, and recreational resources.

LuminArtz‘s mission is to educate, inspire and connect diverse audiences through iconic public art events. In collaboration with, and in support of local artists, they honor art, history and culture by engaging audiences in unique and immersive ways.

Projector Sponsor:

Epson’s large-venue laser projector solutions mean extensive creative possibilities and unparalleled audience experiences. Setting the standard is Epson’s Pro L-Series laser projector line that uses proprietary technology to deliver exceptional color output and durability. Combine that with the available mounts, frames and lenses and you have everything you need to bring your live events to life.   

The Project Funders (as of 12/28/2020):

Major Sponsor

Algorand Inc. built the world’s first open source, permissionless, pure proof-of-stake blockchain protocol for the next generation of financial products. This blockchain, the Algorand protocol, is the brainchild of Turing Award-winning cryptographer Silvio Micali. A technology company dedicated to removing friction from financial exchange, Algorand Inc. is powering the DeFi evolution by enabling the creation and exchange of value, building new financial tools and services, bringing assets on-chain and providing responsible privacy models.


MFS Investment Management


With Support From


Donors to the Esplanade Association’s Public Art Program

The Project Site:

The Edward A. Hatch Memorial Shellis an outdoor concert venue on the Charles River Esplanade in Boston, Massachusetts. Built from 1939-1940, it is one of the city’s prominent examples of Art Deco architecture. The Hatch Shell is best known for hosting the Boston Pops July 4th Fireworks Spectacular, but is also a beloved venue for free concerts and movie nights throughout the summer months.

The Project Site:

Commissioning Body:  Esplanade Association

Project Site: The Hatch Memorial Shell, Boston

Artist Studio: MF Dynamics

Project Partners: Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, LuminArtz

Projector Sponsor: Epson America, Inc.

Artistic Director & Composer: Maria Finkelmeier

Technical Director: Pamela Hersch

Project Manager: Jane Long

Fabrication Specialist: Karim Badwan

Green Screen Videography: Raber Umphenour and Zy Baer of Cinematics Film Studio

Musicians: Maria Finkelmeier, Steph Davis, Ashleigh Gordon, Francesca McNeeley, Rachel Panitch, and Brittany Karlson

Studio Intern: Katie Medrano-Escobar 

# # #

About the CARES Act

To encourage increased giving to non-profits, the Federal Government recently passed the CARES Act, which reinstates and increases a number of charitable deduction items.

If you itemize, you can deduct gifts totaling up to 100% of your Adjusted Gross Income. This is for gifts made between January 1 and June 30, 2020.

Donors who want to accelerate pledge payments and/or make significant commitments are encouraged to discuss this benefit with their financial advisors.

The Act also allows, for those who do not elect to itemize deductions, to deduct up to $300 in qualified charitable contributions. This total applies to any return, whether an individual or a joint return.

if you give to us right now, more of your donation (up to $300) will be counted against your taxes than at any other time!*

We are not financial consultants and recommend that individuals should confirm / consult with one about tax policy.

The Composers on the Hatch Shell

A notable feature of the Hatch Shell is the names of composers emblazoned on it.​

​The decision of which names to memorialize on the new Shell, in 1940, fell to Arthur Fiedler and Serge Koussevitzky, BSO conductor at the time. They felt overwhelmed by the decision and decided to put the issue out to others. In the end, they put the names of 97 composers on a ballot and sent it out to 67 local musicians, music writers, and concert-goers and asked them to vote on who was the greatest! Each voter was to select 50 names from among the 97. ​

A press report from the time explained that “in a commendable effort to avoid any more controversy than necessary, no living composers were included.’’ However, Sibelius and Stravinsky “may be added” because “musically speaking, their life work is about over.” Composers were grouped into seven genres: Pre-classical, Classical, Romantic, Modern, Operatic, American, and Popular. There was a unanimous consensus on Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Brahms, Debussy, and Wagner. Schuman and Schubert missed unanimity by one vote. The American composer with the most votes was MacDowell. ​

The results of the vote were provided to the architect who had freedom in choosing the final list so that the letters would fit on the Hatch Shell.​

Only two names added since the completion of the Shell in 1940.  John Williams in 1993 and Amy Beach in 2000. Williams, the former Pops Conductor and well-known composer is the only living composer whose name is on the Shell. Beach, a renowned Boston composer whose Gaelic Symphony was premiered by the BSO in 1896, is the only woman whose name is on the Shell. Their names are found on the very top tier of the granite on either side of the stage.

Below is a complete list of the 87 names on the Hatch Shell:

  • BYRD
  • WOLF

This Spring is Different, yet…

by Debbie Wiess, April 2020

Running along the Charles River

I observe the cyclical rhythm of nature.

From the equinox mid-March and through

April and May there are all sorts of small

indications that reveal a world that is

awakening and renewing itself.

The changes are imperceptible.

One hardly notices anything at first.

But over time one remarks 

more and more  

the joyful chirping of the birds

resounding in one’s ears,

the grass covering the ground

with a carpet in shades of green,

the trees and plants, stark naked,

dressing themselves in leaves and buds,

the cherry and magnolia trees showing off

their rosy blooms with vainglorious pride,

and the daffodils, their shoots emerging

from the soil later open in an explosion

of bright yellow.

Most remarkable is the quality of  

the light as the days lengthen.

The sun’s rays caressing the Earth

envelop everything in a new luminosity.

The events of Man

that mark the season: 

Opening Day of Baseball,

Boston Marathon,

Art in Bloom,

among others, are cancelled or

rescheduled for later in the year.

Still, nothing and no one

can stop the arrival of Spring.

Nature does not care

about society’s concerns

and continues on its course.

Nevertheless, our daily life is up-ended.

Our activities are now very limited.

No more movies, no more theatre, 

no more visits to museums, 

no more shows, no more concerts, 

no more dinners out in restaurants, 

no more plans with friends,

no more family gatherings,

and above all no more traveling…

Sometimes it seems that there

is no more anything. However, there

is still all the world out there.

Restricted to staying inside the home,

we keep our distance one from another.

Wearing home-made and make-shift masks

when we go outside for errands

and for exercise or some air.

Now my excursions to the Esplanade 

to run have become wonderful excuses

to escape the confines of my apartment;

more than that they are a necessity

and a gift.

Nonetheless life goes on…

That, one is able to attest to

particularly at this time of the year.

Life very simply is just much simpler.

Everything appears normal, 

yet nothing is at all normal.

Yes, this year Spring is very different. 

But, it is also exactly the same.

About Debra Wiess: Back Bay writer Debbie Wiess has always appreciated her proximity to the Esplanade where she regularly goes to run. And often while on her runs along the Charles she finds inspiration for her work. Now more than ever she is grateful for the calm, beauty and solace of the Esplanade.

All photos on this blog are by Debra. View This Spring is Different, yet… as a PDF here.

2019 Year in Review

As our 19th year as an organization comes to a close, we’re reflecting on the incredible things we accomplished together last year. The numbers speak for themselves:

23,500 estimated attendees at Esplanade Association events (concerts, fitness classes, tours & much more!)

5,400 miles run by participants in EA-sponsored 5Ks in the spring and fall

5,100 bulbs planted to bloom bright come spring!

2,030 yards of invasive vegetation removed

1,077 bags of trash removed

1,604 volunteers spent 4,936 hours in the park (the equivalent of 2 full-time employees working a calendar year)!

527 yards of leaves raked

165 benches painted

70+ gallons of paint used in public art projects, including 3 new murals on formerly graffiti-ridden pumphouses

34 dogs joined us for the first ever Kentucky Dog Derby

20 trees planted and 41 trees received soil amendments (air spading, fertilizer, and/or mulch)

17 different subzones where trees can grow on the Esplanade

15 summer camps from across Greater Boston came to the Esplanade for free field days

5 layers of material in the Bruins helmet installed on the Fiedler head (which also measured 17-feet across!)

Thank you for all of your support!

There are so many ways you can enjoy the Esplanade in 2020, including checking out public art, picnicking with friends, taking a fitness class, volunteering, enjoying a bike ride, connecting to nature, going for a run, lounging by the river, playing, attending a concert, smelling the flowers, and much more. We can’t wait to see you in the park!

Spring 2020 Tree Care on the Esplanade

The Esplanade is home to over 1,700 trees, making the park a critical green corridor along the Charles River. These trees provide valuable ecological benefits, including storing carbon dioxide, filtering stormwater, and providing a home for small mammals and birds. They enchant visitors in the spring when the cherry blossoms bloom, offer shade in the hot summer months, and turn spectacular colors each fall.

Although the tree canopy may look healthy from a distance, data from a 2015 inventory commissioned by the Esplanade Association in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR), as well as a recent assessment performed in a joint effort by the DCR’s arborist and our certified arborist on staff, shows underlying weaknesses that pose a threat to the long-term vitality of the canopy. Just four tree species make up nearly 60% of the park’s trees, making them vulnerable to insect deforestation and less attractive as habitat for diverse wildlife species. In addition, 15% of trees are dead or in poor condition, posing a hazard to public safety. These high-risk trees, which have deteriorated to a point where they can no longer be saved, will continue to decline, making them more susceptible to pests, diseases, and wood-decaying fungi. Trees suffering from these conditions can become structurally unstable, resulting in branches, or even whole trees, falling.

But there’s hope ahead! In order to ensure a healthy tree canopy along the Charles River Esplanade for generations to come, the Esplanade Association has established the first-of-its kind Lasting Esplanade Arbor Fund (L.E.A.F.). The first 20 new trees of several hundred to be added as part of L.E.A.F. in the next ten years were planted in fall 2019, with 32 more plantings to come in spring 2020. Planting new and healthy trees is the first step in creating a healthier and more resilient tree canopy along the Esplanade. The L.E.A.F. project and tree planting plan follow Arthur Shurcliff’s historic plan for the Esplanade and was approved by the Boston Landmarks Commission, the Massachusetts Historical Commission, and the Conservation Commission.

As part of this work, 32 of the park’s dead and dying trees will be removed in spring 2020. This work will be performed with the support of the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Partnership Matching Funds Program. DCR will lead and complete the tree removal process. For each high-risk tree removed along the Esplanade, another tree will be replanted, including more diverse species such as the American Sweetgum, Black Tupelo ‘Wildfire’, Red Maple ‘October Glory’, and several other types and cultivars.

The L.E.A.F. project is made possible by the Esplanade Association in partnership with DCR and the generous donors and organizations listed below. You can learn more about our tree care efforts at Esplanade.org/Trees. If you have any questions, please contact: Alison McRae, Capital Projects Manager at the Esplanade Association, at amcrae@esplanade.org or 617.227.0365 – Ext. 407 or Olivia K. Dorrance, Press Secretary at the Department of Conservation and Recreation, at olivia.k.dorrance@state.ma.us or 617-626-4967.

L.E.A.F. is Made Possible By:

Esplanade tree care is made possible with the support of:

Anonymous (2)

Boston Athletic Association

The Biber Foundation

City of Boston Community Preservation Fund

Beacon Hill Garden Club

The Garden Club of the Back Bay

Boston Planning and Development Agency

2019 Visionary Award Recipient Dan Mathieu

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR)

American Association of Endodontists offering free endodontic care in Boston

WHAT: The American Association of Endodontists (AAE) is collaborating with endodontics departments at the schools of dental medicine at Boston University, Harvard University, and Tufts University to provide free endodontic care to patients, pre-qualified on the basis of need, in the Boston area.


WHY: This past March, AAE launched a contest to spotlight four beautiful natural landmarks from around the country and have people vote on which one they felt was most worth saving. The Charles River Esplanade, preserved by the Esplanade Association, won a $20,000 donation from AAE, as well as $30,000 in free endodontic care from Boston-area dental schools for the city of Boston.


HOW: It is estimated that the three schools combined will perform endodontic treatments on more than 60 patients, providing a combined total of more than $30,000 worth of endodontic care. Treatments will be done primarily on anterior and premolar teeth. Patients are being prescreened and scheduled in advance from community health clinics, and most treatments should be completed in one visit on that day.


WHEN: Monday, November 18, 2019

1 p.m. — 7 p.m. EST



  • Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, Department of Endodontics
  • Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Division of Endodontics
  • Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, Department of Endodontics



  • American Association of Endodontists in collaboration with:
    • Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, Department of Endodontics
    • Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Division of Endodontics
    • Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, Department of Endodontics


For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Priya Ramanathan at pramanathan@apcoworldwide.com or (312) 368-7537.


Testimony on Senate Bill 158

Michael Nichols, The Esplanade Association

  • Thank you, Nick and thank you to the Committee for having us here today.
  • I am here to urge the Committee not to advance Senate Bill 158, which would effectively legislate beer and wine gardens out of existence in Massachusetts.
  • In a former role as Chief of Staff at the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, I worked with Nick and Trillium to open the Trillium Garden three years ago.
  • Currently, I am Executive Director of the non-profit Esplanade Association which directly invests over $1 million of private support per year to revitalize, enhance, maintain and program the Charles River Esplanade in partnership with DCR and many stakeholders, including the tireless work, support and advocacy of our State Representative, Jay Livingstone.
  • Last summer we worked with DCR and Night Shift Brewing to open two family-friendly beer/wine/cider gardens along the Charles River which have each returned this year.
  • These locations and others like them have jointly brought hundreds of thousands of neighbors, workers, and tourists together in public spaces throughout the Commonwealth.
  • These activations result from public RFPs that invite breweries, wineries, restaurants, hospitality companies, and individual operators to put forth creative ideas for how to enliven our state’s public spaces.
  • Usually these activations result in adding sorely needed amenities – think bathrooms and bike racks – plus enhanced seating and gathering spaces for patrons and park visitors alike.
  • Further, this successful formula has created a new, important revenue stream to support the on-going care of our treasured – but under-resourced – public spaces.
  • This is certainly true of our relationship with Night Shift where a portion of every drink sold goes to DCR and a portion of every drink sold goes to the Esplanade Association – each to ensure improved care and maintenance of the park.
  • But for a non-profit like ours, the current law as written has allowed us to solve challenges on the Esplanade and attract new visitors.
  • Our Owl’s Nest beer garden exists in a concessions dessert, nearly a half-mile walk from the nearest restaurant and without another food or beverage concessionaire available in the park. Our audience of over 3 million annual visitors regularly cite the lack of places to get food and beverage in the park as an obstacle to their enjoyment of the Esplanade.
  • Enjoying a visit to the Owl’s Nest is part of a quintessential urban experience, providing respite from the city and an opportunity to enjoy nature and scores of free programming. It’s an experience we’ve worked hard to cultivate and ask that you not eliminate it through adoption of this legislation as written.
  • The issues facing the restaurant industry in Massachusetts are real, but they are not best addressed by stamping out popular alternatives that are embraced by thousands of state residents every day and support dozens of non-profits and small businesses.
  • I appreciate your time and ask that you not advance Senate Bill 158.


Arbor Day 2019 Tree Work

In support of Arbor Day 2019 (26 April), the Esplanade Association is pleased to partner with Barrett Tree Service East for a second consecutive year to improve soil conditions for the trees in the park. Soil compaction, which restricts oxygen, water, and nutrient availability to tree’s roots, is a serious concern relating to overall tree health for Esplanade trees.

As part of a new Tree Care Management and Succession Plan, developed in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Esplanade Association has increased focus on soil health to ensure a robust tree canopy for generations to come.

Barrett Tree Service East has generously donated a day of work to Air Spade the areas beneath 15-20 trees, loosening heavily compacted soil. As a result, the bicycle path from Clarendon Street to the PlaySpace will be redirected over the Clarendon and Fiedler Footbridges to the Island pathways. We thank all who plan to utilize the bike path on Arbor Day for their patience with this temporary diversion.

Are you interested in learning more about the Tree Care Management & Succession Plan? Please contact Jo-Ann Lovejoy at jlovejoy@esplanade.org or 617-227-0365 x405.


Photo by Pat Arroyo