Boltwood Plaza Inaugural Exhibition

Boltwood Gallery. Photo: Art Keene


The Amherst Public Art Commission is pleased to announce the launch of a pilot program to exhibit art on Boltwood Plaza. The Commission has selected Amherst resident Benjamin Cowden as the first artist to display work in the space that previously housed the Poem Windows. The Commission has renamed the site Portal Gallery on Boltwood Plaza.

The Portal Gallery consists of five small, south-facing windows on the headhouse above Boltwood Garage. Cowden will install work inside the building, which viewers will access by looking through the windows. The Amherst Center Cultural District is supporting Cowden’s exhibition with a $2,000 recovery and rebuilding grant, allocated by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Boltwood Gallery. Photo: Art Keene

Cowden’s exhibition will transform the windows into miniature worlds that combine natural and mechanical elements. In Cowden’s proposal, abstract representations of spinning caves, blooming flowers, and dancing rock beds respond to environmental cues. Changing light, temperature, and the presence of viewers will all affect the objects in each window. As Cowden describes, “People will be able to play with my sculptures through the glass.” Viewers can clap or shine light from their cell phones to activate the sculptures in each window.

Artist Benjamin Cowden. Photo:

Cowden began his career as a sculptor when, as an undergraduate anthropology student in Cameroon, he learned from local Baka people how to turn worn machetes into utility knives. Over the years he has produced a variety of objects, from hand tools to large sculptural installations. He is a voracious student of craft technique and enjoys creating with almost any material, whether it is sewing clothes, building furniture, or constructing Arduino-based robotic cocktail-mixing machines.

William Kaizen, Chair of the Amherst Public Art Commission, says, “We hope that after this inaugural exhibition, we can secure ongoing funding to make the Portal Gallery a permanent feature of Amherst’s cultural life. Our hope is to present rotating exhibitions, featuring two or three artists a year. This would allow for changing exhibitions downtown and relieve the town from the on-going need to maintain these works in perpetuity. An outdoor gallery is an ideal exhibition venue during COVID and in its wake.”

Cowden’s exhibition is slated to open this summer and run through the fall. 

For more information, contact 

Click here to learn more about  Benjamin Cowden’s Boltwood Plaza Portal Gallery Installation Proposal

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2 thoughts on “Boltwood Plaza Inaugural Exhibition

  1. Love to see something bigger, taking on much more space. I know this will be off the topic (not by much) – but I would love to see more display space in Amherst.

    The Arts Walk has the idea – but outside, viewable, year round, is more interesting, open and expansive. Having more BIPOC involvement in design of built environment w/in Amherst might accomplish this. I see different cultures (than our current main-line) enjoying true plazas. One of the benefits of diverse community (more resources). A call on all to participate. Public spaces for gathering. Arts (all, not just restaurants) involved. Love to see all 8 village centers have pocket parks rather then Round A Bouts. Shade trees, open ground for dance, music, flat and sculpted arts, bocce palla courts, sledding in winter and fountain wading in summer…

    Congrats on a start, let’s “get bigger” tho? Grab our future together, not leave to chance~
    (Was hoping Kendrick could be this way but plastic’n metal, garish colors predominate. The former was better in this single individual’s eye. Let’s wait till finished).

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