Lilli Ann Rosenberg, muralist, sculptor, dies aged 86
August 12, 2011
by Gloria Negri, Boston Globe Staff
When it comes to the public arts projects that Lilli
Ann Killen Rosenberg created throughout the USA as muralist, sculptor,
and potter, the 12-ton, 110-foot-long cement mosaic in the Park
Street subway station she made in 1978, depicting the history of
the Boston subway system, is considered among her most memorable.
In researching the first American subway system, which began in
1897, Mrs. Rosenberg wrote in a self-profile, “I rode every
subway line and became acquainted with motormen and mechanics. All
these experiences went into this work - a mural to celebrate the
underground and engage the passersby in a captivating experience
during their wait below ground.’’
Though Mrs. Rosenberg and her husband, Marvin, moved from Massachusetts
to Oregon 21 years ago, her artwork in Massachusetts will remain
monuments to her life. Her family said she was beginning another
project when she died of cancer at her home in Ashland, Ore., on
July 19. She was 86, three days shy of another birthday.
She was a strong believer in public art, friends and family said,
and public participation in it. Years ago, as art director for 17
years at the Henry Street Settlement House in New York City’s
Lower East Side, she made certain to draw young people who were
potential troublemakers into her program. She knew they would protect
the work against vandals.
On its website the settlement house says that in 1967 Mrs. Rosenberg
“collaborated with the New York City Housing Authority to
design a welcoming and unique play sculpture garden’’,
and invited the community’s children to design and build the
project, which included a sprinkler fountain, whimsical animal sculptures,
and seating areas.
Often she considered children the audience for her art, and loved
to show them how it was done in libraries and playgrounds, said
Dana Buck of Plainville, who worked with her as studio assistant,
including on a mural Mrs. Rosenberg was commissioned to do for The
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “The theme of that
was the four seasons,’’ Buck said. “There is always
a theme of nature in Lilli Ann’s work and always whimsical.
Her colors were bright and beautiful, as was she.’’
Her technique, according to her website, was “to embed a
variety of materials in concrete using color and texture, sometimes
carving it into the concrete or casting with it.’’
Mrs. Rosenberg’s work in the Boston area was prolific. Her
mosaic work on the TADpole Playground on Boston Common has elements
of nature and animal life and is a child-charmer.
At Langley Road and Centre Street in Newton Centre is another public
sculpture that Mrs. Rosenberg and her husband created, where 300
residents imbedded pieces of ceramic tile, recalling events in city