Dots and Dashes

Curator Cecily Miller first met Johnny Lapham in the Spring of 2018, when Johnny was up on a lift,  transforming the Arlington Service Station on Mass Avenue with colorful dots and stripes. The station owner, Abe, had commissioned Johnny to turn the canopy over his gas pumps into a local landmark, a colorful and sculptural work of public art. At the time, Miller was curating art installations in 5 bus shelters as part of Arlington’s BRT pilot project to improve bus service on Mass Avenue during commuting hours. She invited Johnny to develop a proposal for the bus shelter on the same block as the Service Station, and asked him to think about linking the two structures with a complementary design.

Johnny developed an ambitious design for the BRT pilot, creating more than 80 colorful plywood discs to make it seem as if the colorful dots on the service station had jumped down and made their way to Mass Avenue where they were having a party in the bus shelter. This playful work was a big hit with the community, but at the end of two months all the bus shelter artwork had to come down.

Miller invited Johnny to recycle his discs into a different configuration responding to the terrain of the Minuteman Bikeway and install them in 2019.  Arlington is committed to sustainability and a zero waste future, and many of the works in PATHWAYS comment on how important it is to steward our green spaces and the environment; we are delighted to embody these values by giving this whimsical artwork, and the material resources and labor invested in it, a new life along the Bikeway.


These brightly colored discs were made with lots of help from my neighbors on Belknap, Marion and Linwood Streets nearby. Originally these discs danced off the Arlington Service Station and down Mass Ave until the colors burst all over the MBTA bus shelter to highlight the Town’s Bus Rapid Transit pilot project test in the Fall of 2018. But they were designed to be transplanted to fields or forests anywhere that hungered for fresh blossoms.

I love the lively conversations that colors have with each other and I designed these discs in small groups so the colors would carry the eye from one to the other and back again. And now they are planted almost musically all alone or in small groups on the slopes, under branches, or among the wild weeds so that they can play peek-a-boo with the bikers and pedestrians dashing, rolling or strolling on by.

If this were a kind of lollipop Morse code dotting and dashing its way in and out of your awareness each time you pass by, what song might they be singing just for you?


Johnny Lapham is an artist, sculptor and performer living in Arlington. He designed the colorful new paint job for the Arlington Service Station. He offers huge thanks to Mitch Ryerson and Dave Douglas for woodshop support and to Cecily Miller for helping make all this art happen. Audio tour is available here.

Thanks to our supporters

PATHWAYS is supported by grants from the Arlington Cultural Council, a local agency, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency, and the National Park Service. Additional support generously provided by donations from individual supporters of the arts and the Town of Arlington.