roxxbost is an art and science-based program that looks to the
dramatic rock formations of Boston that are our natural Monuments to Time.
The Roxbury Conglomerate, also informally known as Roxbury Puddingstone, is a name for a rock formation that forms the bedrock underlying most of Roxbury, Massachusetts, now part of the city of Boston. The bedrock formation extends well beyond the limits of Roxbury, underlying part or all of Quincy, Canton, Milton, Dorchester, Dedham, Jamaica Plain, Brighton, Brookline, Newton, Needham, and Dover. It is named for exposures in Roxbury, Boston area.
The Roxbury Puddingstone formations that are found all over town are largely ignored because we have been living with them for so long that we have begun to think of them as “invisible.” This project proposes to shift some attention towards the obvious and uses Roxbury Puddingstone as stone billboards to advertise a story about our past that every Bostonian shares.
The goal of roxxbost is to use Roxbury Puddingstone as a symbol of community strength , and through it to generate effective means of fostering positive social inter-connections. The roxxbost program begins by drawing attention to Roxbury Puddingstone as a (neglected) resource; next, students have fun learning about history and local geology; and finally, local artists come together and use Roxbury Puddingstone as a source of material and inspiration for their art.
roxxbost is presented to you by James Hobin, artist/director.
Boston’s buildings are being being built up and torn down everyday, but what about the huge, rock monuments that have never been eradicated? For example, consider the impressive scale of the four-story puddingstone wall that rises above Malcom X Boulevard in Roxbury. Or, for beauty and practicality, there are many homes, churches and other structures that have been built with Roxbury Puddingstone, including bridges found throughout Boston’s Emerald Necklace. Roxbury Puddingstone truly is the rock of Boston.
The QRC (Quick Response Code) links ancient objects to new technology and is the social media lifeline for this project. A QRC badge will be unobtrusively affixed in convenient locations near rock formations in public areas. Passersby can click on the QRC to be connected to roxxbost, a new interactive website that takes users on a geological journey of discovery. The QRC is an invitation to take a deeper look at something that is seen everyday. The info is presented in layman’s terms, but technical data is available, should people care for a more in-depth analysis.
People can find and click on a QRC that refers to rock outcroppings near a bus stop, or around a supermarket parking lot, or in the walls of a playground. Wherever Roxbury Puddingstone is evident, the QRC badge should be there to tell the story.
Approximate area of boston Basin
About 350 million years ago, seismic pressure caused fault lines to form along a five to ten mile radius of present-day Boston. The land at the outer edge of this radius was uplifted, while the land inside was lowered. This lowering resulted in the formation of a declivity, or basin, which eventually filled with water to make a bay, ringed by elevations: Middlesex Fells to the north, the Blue Hills to the south, and Arlington Heights to the west. These boundaries are still in place and mark the perimeter of what is known as the Boston Basin.
Massive rivers flowed in from all directions, lining the bottom of the Boston Basin with the rocks and silt that were carried downstream. Over millions of years this debris accumulated to a great depth, and – crushed by its own weight – solidified into the sedimentary rock that we now call Roxbury Puddingstone.
Roxbury Puddingstone is a sedimentary conglomerate, comprised of a fine-grained matrix, or silt (the pudding), within which are inclusions of rock, mostly rounded granite. What makes Roxbury Puddingstone unique is that it contains Dedham Granite and volcanic rock from the ancient underlying Mattapan Volcanic Complex.
The science behind this project can be shared with BPS students in fun, interactive ways. By sharing the story of Roxbury Puddingstone we show how the world around us has been shaped by natural processes – and also by the hand of man.
After viewing rock formations outdoors, students will return to the classroom to learn more about rocks. The three rock types of the Boston area are puddingstone, slate, and granite; and samples of each will be brought into the classroom for students to examine. The rock samples are supplied as 6 inch by 6 inch blocks, and each block is covered with a sheet of paper. Students use colored pastels to make rubbings that transfer the texture of the different rocks onto the paper. In this exercise, students have an opportunity to learn first-hand how rocks can display the infinite variety of nature.
The purpose of this program is to show how beautiful and interesting rocks can be. Roxbury Puddingstone looks like it is moving, or at least frozen in the action of movement; it is appealing as a sculptural surface for the variety of textures it presents to the hand and eye.
At every school, the student’s block prints can be joined in a grid to make a giant, colorful, rock mural. Each mural will be different because each rubbing will be different, and every student, including our special-needs students, can participate. The rock murals made by students lead to a more dramatic artistic demonstration by professional artists.
Local artists collaborate to create an eye-popping replica of Roxbury Puddingstone. The artists will copy part of the rock wall located on Malcolm X Boulevard. To accomplish this, the team will transfer an impression of the original rock texture onto a new, man-made surface: industrial-grade aluminum sheets. Set up on staging, and working section by section, the artists will press the aluminum sheets onto the rock surface, fashioning a skin-tight layer that retains the rock texture. Then, working in sequence, these sheets will be peeled off, marked for identification, and stored. Later, these sheets will be re-assembled to make a full-scale replica of the rock wall; proposed as a grandiose public exhibition that will match the cavernous proportions of Boston City Hall.
Artist’s rendering No. 1: Roxbury Puddingstone in gold foil.
Artist’s rendering No. 2: Roxbury Puddingstone in green foil.
People can read the articles, sample the data, and join in the dialogue on Twitter, Facebook and WordPress. Also, report formations of Roxbury Puddingstone and upload their favorite Roxbury Puddingstone pictures. The roxxbost website functions like a neighborhood rock watch.
Partnership with community programs, including visits to BPS and after-school programs. Students can get the word out by sharing what they have learned about Roxbury Puddingstone with their friends and family members. To publicize the program, announcements will be made to major media outlets and local newspapers.
The resources needed to put this program into operation already exist, and are free! Implementing this project in Dorchester and Roxbury is an effective way to generate positive community interaction. But there are rock formations all over Boston, and each one is special. Social media makes it possible to chart and follow map points, so that important rock formations can be searched out and visited. Expanding the scope to the perimeter of the Boston Basin adds another dimension to the story. If mapped to the limits of the city, it is possible this could become a new “Freedom Trail,” for rocks.
James Hobin, artist/director