MFA Marks MLK Holiday with Open House

Mayor Walsh Speaks at Museum of Fine Arts' MLK Open House (BU News Service/Alistair Birrell)
Mayor Walsh Speaks at Museum of Fine Arts’ MLK Open House (BU News Service/Alistair Birrell)

By Alistair Birrell
BU News Service

Several thousand people braved near freezing temperatures to line up for the Museums of Fine Arts’ Martin Luther King, Jr. Day open house on Monday.

The event, which allowed free access to the museum, featured a number of events and performances, as well as speakers including Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, former United States Ambassador to Nigeria Walter Carrington, and comedian Jimmy Tingle.

“Today is a day of service and a lot of people do service today. Tomorrow is Tuesday. Tomorrow is a day where somebody needs service. It doesn’t have to be on Martin Luther King Day. So I ask all of you to just try and help somebody or help some organization a little bit, a little bit can make a huge difference,” Walsh said during his short speech from the podium.

After signing the museum’s guest book, Walsh joked with the crowd that his prepared Martin Luther King quote had been said at every event he had been to so far before he had a chance to say it.

Throughout the morning several of the other speakers read historic speeches from a lectern outside the main entrance to the museum as part of an interactive piece of performance art by Argentinian artist Amelia Pica.

Members of the MFA’s Teen Arts Council read speeches by Robert Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, Harvey Milk and Sayeeda Warsi. “It is nerve-wracking because we are expecting so many people, but it is exciting and an exciting day,” said Elizabeth George, a Boston Latin School student and member of the Teen Arts Council, who read Harvey Milk’s 1978 speech, The Hope Speech.

Cambridge born comedian and political satirist Jimmy Tingle read two of King’s shorter speeches. “I am honoured to be invited to participate in this event on this holiday,” Tingle said. “I chose those particular speeches because they were from early on in Martin Luther King’s life, but they are right at the core of his beliefs in social and political change.”

The final speech made before the lectern was opened to the public was an impassioned reading of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address by the former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Walter Carrington.

Liz Munsell, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Arts and MFA Programs, was enthusiastic about being able to have both the open house event and the opening of the lectern artwork on Martin Luther King Day. “It is very exciting. It is a great platform for voices and we should be able to express ourselves,” she said. “And just look at the lines of people.”

The Now, Speak! Lectern will be outside the MFA through summer 2014.

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