For 30 years the signage on the bricks of the former Haffenreffer Brewery smokestack had been missing the first three letters of its name. Late last year,  the missing letters were restored with a cage-like crown displaying ‘HAF.’ Today we are chatting with local artist Bob Maloney about his inspiration and process for the smokestack restoration.

Join us on Thursday, March 2, 2017 for the unveiling ceremony!

K: Where are you from originally? Where do you live now?

B: I am a Massachusetts native. I grew up north of Boston in Saugus, land of Kowloon and the orange dinosaur. I moved to Jamaica Plain about 20 years ago.

K: How long have you been an artist? Where did you study art?

B: I’d say most of my life. My dad is a landscape painter and a really good cartoonist. He’s got a really good sense of humor so he’s always done cartoons. He is a retired art director so I grew up with some of the messy fine art side and the clean art director side. My dad went to MassArt which is where I also went to school. I grew up watching my dad paint and draw my entire life so that definitely affected my path. It was a natural segway for me. I started in high school with Saturday Studios and then applied for college there and continued and I actually teach at MassArt now. The Haffenreffer Chimney Restoration Project was the product of a grad school assignment at MassArt.

K: What inspired the Haffenreffer chimney project? 

B: I enrolled in the Summer Low Residency MFA Program at MassArt in 2012. I graduated in 2015. The project came out of the response to a prompt that my teacher gave us that was to create some sort of large gesture in our landscape that was bigger than us and outside of our comfort zone. I can see the smokestack from a window of my house and it has always been something that’s nagged at me a bit. Growing up in the area I always knew it was Haffenreffer and not ‘Fenreffer. It was always a typo that I wanted to fix.

Bob with his mockup of the chimney.

K: What was your process for the project?

B: I made several mockups and got a good response from them. The following semester I had an Artist Writing class. One of the guidelines for the class was to come up with a public art project. We had to make mockups, research funding and write a proposal. I did all that and my teacher was impressed with it and thought that I should continue on it so I did.

I approached JPNDC’s Brewery Property Manager Lisa King in 2013 and pitched her the idea for the project. In my research for funding I came across the George B. Henderson Foundation, which is a foundation that funds Boston-centric historic projects that deal preserving the past. I thought it was the perfect project for them and they thought so as well.

The mockups started as wood and paper. We brought those to engineers at Boston Chimney and they surveyed the smokestack and made very precise measurements and then made the architectural drawings and scaled up what I created. They said stainless steel would be ideal. There were a few changes here and there with the materials and the look. I think it looks great with the bare stainless steel and the faces of the letters black. I think it makes the faces of the letters stand out really well.

K: What kind of art do you create?

B: I got my BFA in Illustration and I teach in the Illustration Department. I’ve always had a very short attention span so I’m always exploring a variety of ways to make things and build things in different ways that tell a story. I probably enjoy building things more than I enjoy drawing things. It’s a challenge as an illustration teacher to follow that path but I like the idea of nurturing creativity in whatever form it takes.

I do a number of styles of mixed media works. I do some wall pieces that are semi-digital paintings. I do screen printing. I’ve experimented with installations and projections. I build architectural structures and make animations to project on them and it fragments the images. The structures hold the image but they also create shadows so when you project it on the wall it creates silhouettes. It’s a serendipitous form of art. You never know what you’re going to get when you’re dealing with structures like these. A lot of the work I do focuses on fragmentation and elements of the moments in between being constructed and being dismantled and what traces are left behind.

Before the new crown was installed on the chimney.

The Haffenreffer structure sort of falls into that category. Without the crown on there some people would have no idea it was missing but now that we have the crown it’s a skeletal structure that is suspending the rest of the visual information.

K: What has been one of your favorite projects to work on?

B: There’s an installation project that I created in grad school called ‘Building Memories.’ It is made up of structures and time-lapse portraits. I experimented with ways to have the imagery appear and disappear and sort of deteriorate. I saw it as the way humans store memories. It was an engaging space and the entire room where the piece was shown was activated by the structures and the images. There were lots of shadows. I presented that project to the Illuminus Festival in 2015 and had my work installed on Lansdowne Street in a parking garage. 30,000 people came to this festival so it was a huge opportunity for me to show my work.

K: Do you have a favorite piece of JP public art?

B: I wish there were more instances of public art around Jamaica Plain but there is one project by a professor at MassArt named Matthew Hincman. He made a piece of guerilla art where he created a bench at the Jamaica Pond. The benches are made of cast iron and wood. He made one that was impossible to sit on. It looked like a giant taco. You can lay in it but you cannot sit in it. He snuck it right in there. He works in the 3D Department so he was able to match the metal of the existing benches. It was there for a week before people realized it and then it was removed. They came to an agreement after a while to put it back. I haven’t been to the pond for a while so I’m not sure if it is still there. It’s a wise guy piece of art and I think there should be more of that.

To learn more about the Haffenreffer Chimney Restoration Project please visit:

To see more of Bob Maloney’s work please visit: