Mrs. Mallard and her kin always dress their best for a memorable occasion, whether it’s a festive holiday or another championship celebration for a hometown team, and an intended photo book would look back at the Ducks donning some of their most memorable costumes in the Public Garden over the years.
“Every time the Ducks
get dressed up, people send me an email or a photo,” said Nancy Schön, the West
Newton sculptor who created the iconic “Make Way for Ducklings” statue. “I
can’t image the amount of time and effort people take making these outfits. “
The bronze sculpture
occupies 35 feet of cobblestone along the Public Garden, and was installed on
Oct. 4, 1987. It pays tribute to Robert McCloskey’s 1941 classic children’s
book “Make Way For Ducklings,” which tells the story of a pair of mallards
who decide to raise their family in the Public Garden’s lagoon, and depicts
Mrs. Mallard, who stands the tallest at 38 inches, leading her flock of eight
ducklings – Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack and Quack – through the
While Schön isn’t sure
when the tradition of decorating the Ducks began, she said it originally
occurred only to mark major holidays. “Then it wasn’t just for major holidays,
and soon enough, it was for any reason people could think of to dress them up,”
The Ducks began paying
tribute to Boston pro-sports in 2004 when they donned Red Sox uniforms for the
team’s World Series appearance, and they have subsequently gone on to show
their support for other hometown heroes, including most recently, wearing
Bruins gear when that team reached the Stanley Cup Finals last year.
In 2016, a special
exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts celebrated the 75th anniversary of the
publication of McCloskey’s children’s book called “Make Way for Ducklings: The
Art of Robert McCloskey,” and Lorraine Walsh, a museum volunteer, designed and
sewed min-tartan coats with velvet collars for the Ducks to wear for the
Other times, the Ducks
have been adorned in attire intended to raise awareness of political issues and
To coincide with the
publication of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s 2016 book “My Own Words,” the robe-clad
Ducks appeared as Supreme Court Justices. And women from all over the country
knitted pink hats for the Ducks to wear in conjunction with the
Boston Women’s March for America, which drew a crowd estimated
at 175,000 to the Boston Common on Jan. 21, 2017 – one day after President
Donald Trump’s inauguration – in support of women’s rights, Schön said.
Last summer, the Ducks
were caged in chicken wire as a statement on the inhumane treatment of
immigrant children at the border in a guerilla installation that was the
brainchild of Karyn Alzayer, a Malden artist and founder of the nonprofit
Integral Arts Everett.
But for the most part
whoever dresses the Ducks has chosen and managed to remain anonymous.
“It’s a big mystery,
and we know there are some groups who do it, but we don’t know who they are,”
Schön said. “There are all sorts of thoughts about who it is.”
hatched the idea of compiling a photo book of the Ducks in costume over dinner
with Sue Ramin, director of Brandeis University Press.
The two women became
friends after Ramin successfully pitched the idea of a book devoted to Schön
and her craft to her employer at the time, Boston-based David R. Godine,
Publisher. This resulted in the publication of “Make Way for Nancy: A Life in
Public Art” in 2017, which revisits and recounts the great success and many
challenges Schön has encountered over the course of her career.
“Nancy is such an
extraordinary person and so incredibly talented, and the Ducks, the Tortoise
and the Hare in Copley Square and her other sculptures are so iconic that I
wanted to [develop] a book about her achievements and how she achieved them,”
Ramin said. “She’s an artist, a publicist and her own business manager – she
does it all – and I was just really interested in the public art process.”
Ramin said she was
inspired to help tell Schön’s story by walking past the Ducks each day on her
way to work and noticing their ever-changing wardrobes.
“I though it was
extraordinary how people expressed themselves through the Ducks, and that it’s
become a form of self-expression and engagement with the public,” said Ramin,
who is also helping Schön develop this latest book project. “It amazes me that
people use them to celebrate Christmas, Easter, the winter season and Boston’s
sports teams. It’s like a catalyst for commentary.”
Commissioner Ryan Woods points to the Ducks as not only a popular attraction
for children, but also a city landmark that is embraced and enjoyed by visitors
to the Public Garden of all ages.
“The Make Way for
Ducklings statue is a beloved piece of public art in the City of Boston,”
Woods said. “We look forward to welcoming children – and the young at heart –
to the Public Garden for generations to come.”
A portion of the proceeds from sales of the book would
benefit the Friends of the Public Garden, a private nonprofit that cares for
the Boston Common, Public Garden and Commonwealth Avenue Mall in partnership
with the city.
“The Ducklings sculpture is probably the most beloved sculpture
in Boston, with outfits or without,” said Liz Vizza, executive director of the
Friends group. “We are grateful to Nancy for her generosity in pledging a
portion of the proceeds to the Friends so we can continue our work in
caring for this iconic park and every creature in it.”
As for the expected content and release date of the intended
book, Schön is now soliciting high-resolution photos submissions from the
public, and will work together with Ramin to select a diverse representation of
images for potential publication.
“We’re seeking the
best, most artistic images we can find,” Schön said. “It will be a beautiful
book and reminder that these Ducks are like the Energizer Bunny – they just
keep going and going.”
To submit a photo, click on the link at https://nancyschon.typeform.com/to/IhTbAA. You will be asked to provide the occasion of the outfit/decoration, date of the photo (if you know it) and your name as the photographer if you desire attribution (if selected for the book). If your photo is used, you will be informed of its selection, and you will receive a copy of the book signed by Schön.