Early Friday morning, local artist Karyn Alzayer went to work at the Boston public gardens. She put chicken wire cages around the iconic “Make Way for Ducklings” statue, separating the baby ducklings from the mother duck at the head of the line, Mrs. Mallard, who was also under a cage.
Each duck was swaddled in a shiny emergency blanket, evoking images of children in detention centers at the southern border. Alzayer, a Malden artist who founded the local non-profit Integral Arts Everett, said she has been working on the idea for months.
“The Mallards are Boston's quintessential immigrant family,” said Alzayer. “In the book they moved here for a better life.”
Alzayer said she hopes the installation would spark a conversation.
“In the book, the ducklings were looking for a place to stay. If that were to happen during today’s climate this would be their fate,” said Alzayer, referring to the cages. “The statue is so beloved in the city. It's a metaphor about who we get upset about caging and who we don't.”
One park employee came to work at 6:30 a.m. and saw the cages piled up next to ducks. He said the cages were removed by a homeless man who lives in the park and often helps clean statues. When the employee saw a photo of the installation, he said he thought it was “awesome.”
“I wish I had seen it,” said the worker, who requested anonymity. “Sometimes people come and do really crazy things to these ducks,” he said, like dressing them up after sports games. But this is the first time he had heard of a political protest. “It’s a good idea,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Boston Parks and Recreation Department said their agency did not approve Alzayer’s installation and do not permit any installations on top of public art or historical monuments.
The emergency blankets were a key part of the installation, according to Alzayer, who said the light Mylar material is designed to provide, “warmth but not comfort.”
“It was hard for me to feel those materials and my hands every day knowing that this is what some child's real experience is here in our country at our hands,” she said.