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Laura Jasinski, Director of Programs and Planning

You have one of the longest Greenway stories on staff, tell us how it started!

It’s hard to believe I’ve been at the Greenway for over six years, time flies! I started at the Conservancy in May 2010 as a summer intern in the Planning and Design Department. Previously, I had been working in the model shop of an architecture firm (I’m still quite skilled with an xacto knife). I have always been fascinated with how the built environment can influence the quality of life of the community it serves. After graduating with a major in Architectural Studies from Tufts University, my intention was to pursue this passion through a career in architecture. However, I found myself missing the day-to-day interaction with community members and wanted to have a more direct impact on a daily basis. The opportunity to combine my interests in public space, community planning, and green design at the Greenway Conservancy was one I couldn’t pass up.

2010 was when the Greenway Carousel at the Tiffany &Co. Foundation Grove project began, correct?

©2013 Ben Gebo Photography

The Greenway Carousel at the Tiffany & Co. Foundation Grove

Yes! At the end of my internship we started working with an anonymous donor who wanted to build a unique, permanent carousel on The Greenway as a gift to the children of Boston. This has been the largest park improvement project to date and I was brought on full-time to help manage it. My first assignment on this project was to solicit design feedback from the future users – kids! Using skills from my previous job, I built four carousel models and brought them to four different elementary schools across Boston: the North End, Beacon Hill, South Boston and Dorchester. In each location, school children drew pictures of the creatures they wanted to see on their Boston Carousel. Their drawings populated the model carousel and were given to the carousel artist as inspiration for the mix of Boston land, air, and sea characters we have today.

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Carousel model

What are some of the key lessons you learned from this project?

I learned that project management is all about communication and building partnerships. You can’t be afraid to ask questions, no matter how simple they seem. It’s not about being an expert in any one subject, but rather facilitating collaborations between many different experts. On the carousel project, for example, we had an artist, carousel manufacturers, landscape architects, architects, lighting designers, universal design consultants, general contractors, community stakeholders, and City and State agencies involved. My job was to make sure everyone stayed on the same page, on time, and on budget. I loved every minute of it and this project was one of the key reasons I decided to pursue my graduate degree in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University part-time while continuing to work for the Conservancy.

You were also the project manager for Janet Echelman’s aerial installation As If It Were Already Here. What impact do you think the sculpture had on The Greenway and the City of Boston?

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Laura overseeing the installation

I am exceedingly proud of being a part of this project because I think it has helped change the public art conversation in Boston. The reaction was incredible. Each day The Greenway’s Fort Point Channel Parks were full of visitors with their heads tilted skyward, cameras and iPhones in hand and smiles on their faces. We have heard feedback from the artist community in Greater Boston, conveying that a project of this magnitude has made it much harder for foundations and regulatory agencies to dismiss innovative proposals due to their scale and complexity. “If Boston can hang an Echelman” – the argument goes – “from three different buildings up to 365 feet in the air, imagine what else we can do!”

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Janet Echelman’s aerial installation

The immensely complicated logistics of this project have also highlighted the importance of multi-disciplinary collaboration in leveraging Boston’s creative capital. Upon viewing the installation, it was clear that the coordination between the artist, engineers, contractors, and building owners was crucial. However, there were many other partners that were critical to the success of this project. This includes the work of fundraisers and investment donors, City and State officials to temporarily close major downtown streets and detour an interstate highway off-ramp for hoisting equipment, cooperation from the Boston Fire Department, Emergency Medical Services outpost, and four-star InterContinental Hotel to ensure that operations and safety were not impeded during the overnight installation, as well as attorneys and insurers to mitigate the risk and reassure project stakeholders. Creating vibrant and innovative public art really does take the entire community!

What are you working on now?

Last July we combined the Planning and Design Department with the Public Programs Department.  I’ve spent the last year working with my fantastic team to integrate park programming with capital improvement planning. It’s been great to see The Greenway explode with activity in the past few years. We’ve put on over 300 free public programs in the park and new event proposals keep pouring in. We’re also thinking creatively about how to program the park in colder months. Northeast winters can be long, so we’re exploring lighting projects, play programs, markets, and activities that will get Bostonian’s outside and having fun!

Laura at the 2015 Greenway Gala

Laura at the 2015 Greenway Gala

What is your favorite thing about working for The Greenway Conservancy?

I love how talented and dedicated my colleagues are. The staff comes from a wide variety of professional backgrounds and experiences and all with a high level of professionalism. I also like having the opportunity to work with so many different talented individuals and organizations across the City. Most of all, I love that in six years, each day at work has been different and unique.  I’ve never lived the same day twice in the park and I hope I never do!