Whitehot Magazine

WM Recommends: Ruben Natal-San Miguel: Downtown Crossing at Boston's Griffin Museum

Ruben Natal-San Miguel: Downtown Crossing

The Griffin

July 15 through August 31, 2023 

By WM, July 2023

From the press release:

Boston’s colonial leaders once called Downtown Boston home, and the district’s residents traded on the wharves and in shops leading from the waterfront.  The seat of government was the Old State House at the head of State Street.  The main freshwater source for the area gave Spring Lane its name.

Although you wouldn’t know it today, as recently as 20 years ago, Downtown Crossing was hardly an attraction at all. It was a place occupied almost entirely by shoppers and office workers. The neighborhood was busy during the day, but went silent at night. Now, emerging retail giants, new restaurants and revived forms of entertainment keep visitors busy deep into the night. 

Neighborhoods throughout Boston all have their own distinct demographics. But Downtown Crossing prides itself on being a place that has a little bit of everything for everyone. “When you’re taking Washington Street and you go all the way down into different neighborhoods, there are different demographics. But, specifically talking about Downtown Crossing, it really is a crossing of lots of cultures. Just a few blocks away along Washington Street, Chinatown is experiencing similar changes to Downtown Crossing.  

In Early 1982 , I moved to Boston from Manhattan, NYC to attend college. Back then, the city was mostly diverse during the semester calendar of the year when students like me (called back then foreign students) would be there during the college semesters and when college was over most would leave town for job opportunities elsewhere. The city was mostly known for its lack of diversity, lack of inclusiveness and racial tensions. 

I worked there briefly after college and then like most relocated back to NYC where 31 years later still reside. 

Recently I was invited by Crista Dix, Executive Director of the Griffin Museum to show my photographic series Expanding The Pantheon : Women R Beautiful at The Griffin @ Lafayette City Center Gallery in Downtown Crossing Boston. 

I was also asked if could do what I call and had done in several other museums a ” Wall Portrait Session ” on which will asked passersby subjects to have their portrait taken and document the current demographics of the area. 

This happened Saturday May 13, 2023 from 2-4 PM right in front of Macy’s (which in the past was formerly Jordan Marsh). 

I was so pleasantly surprised by how diverse and inclusive the city has become. Everywhere I went around the city, from my Uber driver, to delivery, to retail employers, hotel managers etc, etc, minorities and members of the LBGTQ+ community were present, confident and more than anything being seen!

I was so thrilled to document such a strong shift in demographics so evident and present and how everyone interacted so well with each other. I witnessed and documented a newer, inclusive and diverse city. 

The wall selected for the portrait session was this wonderful wallpaper simulating stage drapery. It was tiny but just perfect ! The final effect to me seemed like a vintage photo booth, where people go in to have that perfect moment of togetherness 

This whole digital archive was donated by me to The Griffin Museum. My way to give back to the city who formed me as the professional, individual and human that I am today. WM



Whitehot writes about the best art in the world - founded by artist Noah Becker in 2005. 


view all articles from this author