They are the stories of the South End, and they’re only a Charlie Card tap away.

Photos by Mona Maruyama

Two jagged structures stick out of the ground in the Boston Center for the Arts Plaza on Tremont Street. They look like stalactites that fell from the heavens to tell us stories of an alien race. However, the stories they hold are not those of aliens. They are the stories of the South End, and they’re only a Charlie Card tap away.

The culture of an area is not defined by one key event or one specific experience. Culture is built out of a million little stories. Every person has an experience that has added to and shaped the culture of their surroundings, and that’s what the Culture Tap kiosks have put on display. They’ve allowed residents to hear these stories first hand.

All they have to do is tap their Charlie Card (no charge) and listen.

After sunset the kiosks stop telling stories and start showing lights. Environmental lights illuminate different areas near the kiosks, such as architecture or shrubbery. Just like with the stories, different cards get different results. It all depends on the Charlie Card’s RFID number.

I went to the kiosks during the day, swiped my card several times, and heard a whole collection of stories. I heard about fringe theaters and their rise in the area. I heard about directors struggling to make it in the early ’90s. I learned about Speakeasy Stage Company’s beginnings and how their performance of the play Jeffrey by Paul Rudnick in 1992 got them on their feet.

I got a taste of the art scene that’s grown here and I walked away with a new appreciation for it.

The Culture Tap kiosks have been up since August 30th and will remain up until October 18th—so if you haven’t been there yet, grab your Charlie Card and go culture yourself.



Steve Bonanno is from Newtown, CT and currently living in Allston, MA. He is known for having volume control issues, being reminded he is in a family restaurant, and being asked to put his shirt back on.

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