Nancy Schön Engages Us with Characters and Stories


Make Way for Ducklings in Boston Public Garden 

Making my way through the list of twenty-two women artists represented on Boston Public Art Walk, I’ve grown more aware of how pivotal Nancy Schön has been to my own interest in public art. My choices to walk through the Boston Public Garden on the way to and from work in almost any weather were shaped by the potential pleasures of seeing Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings dressed for whatever holiday it happened to be.


Through the years I’ve watched or joined with adults and children of all ages interacting happily with these distinctive animal characters from Make Way for Ducklings written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey, published 1941. People participate in the story as they recall or imagine it. Or they bring their own stories to the moments when they mount, hug, or admire the bronze beings.

Public Art Walk Boston: Make Way for Ducklings, Ducklings Sculpture

Tortoise and Hare in Copley Square


“The tortoise and the hare seemed a perfect metaphor to represent the wide variety of people who participate in the marathon – people of all ages, shapes and sizes, many of whom finish, but walk over the finish line.” (quote from Nancy Schön website: Public Art: Tortoise and Hare)


Public Art Walk Boston: Tortoise and the Hare

Recent Events for Nancy Schön

In the first half of 2017, the Museum of Fine Arts exhibited the art of Robert McCloskey, including maquettes that Nancy Schön had made in preparation for her sculpture installed in the Boston Public Garden in 1987. This added to my understanding of how the sculptor had thoughtfully collaborated with the illustrator. Then with the publication of Schön’s autobiographical Make Way for Nancy, A Life in Public Art in October 2017, she gave several local talks and interviews related to the book. Her own stories promise to inspire my own sense of purpose beyond the moment of this post.

Why Make Public Art? “It’s there all the time. It’s there for anybody. You don’t have to buy a ticket. You don’t have to have a television. All you have to do is walk through the parks. There’s a message in everything I do. The ducks, it’s about keeping promises,” Schön says. “It’s not complicated. It’s not abstract. It’s really real. It’s straightforward and simple and powerful.” (quote from Greg Cook’s interview with Nancy Schön, November 2017)

Links about Nancy Schön’s Art


MAKE WAY FOR NANCY: A LIFE IN PUBLIC ART  by Nancy Schön, foreword by Anita Diamant

Make Way for Ducklings: The Art of Robert McCloskey, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Nov. 2016- June 2107, archived

Nancy Schön website

Thoughts On Art And Life From The Sculptor Of Ducklings In Boston’s Public Garden, Nancy Schön, article by Greg Cook for the Artery November 27, 2017

Public Art Walk Boston: Make Way for Ducklings, Ducklings Sculpture

Public Art Walk Boston: Tortoise and the Hare



  1. Rebecca MacWilliams · · Reply

    Thanks Deb, my day just got off to a great start with your post, and Nancy Schön’s comments.Big thanks, big hug!

  2. Sandra Millikin · · Reply

    Hi Deb
    I love these scuptures which remind me of our ducks (no longer here) and your kind gift of the wonderful book! Lots of love….sandy


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