On Wednesday, October 29, as the sun began setting behind Boston’s cityscape, illuminating the sky with hues of pink, orange and yellow, several patrons gathered in Boston’s Fort Point Channel neighborhood to admire New England’s richest arts district. Emily O’Neil, executive director of Fort Point Arts Community (FPAC), hosted a tour to show artists, advocates, board members and one dashing reporter that the community is currently displaying more public art than it ever has before.
The group convened at the corner of A and Binford streets, at which point O’Neil noted that Fort Point, despite being a community deeply rooted in the arts, is experiencing a cultural renaissance of sorts. Perhaps it’s the involvement and support of local organizations – four of the pieces were funded by Fund for the Arts, a public program of the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) and one by the Friends of Fort Point Channel and the Fort Point Operations Board – or maybe it’s the echoes of civic innovation sprouting up in the form of next-generation living spaces.
But all of these aspects fostering Fort Point’s imaginative identity have culminated in the brilliant show of various installments stretching the channel and seeping into the adjacent areas.
We kicked things off on A Street across from Barlow’s Restaurant where, on the fence separating the sidewalk from a parking lot, we encountered Close Knit, a homey and inviting piece by Kristen Alexandra. Using soft fabrics (15 balls of yarn to be exact, stretching some 8,500 yards in total), Alexandra created crocheted leaves and vines to pay homage to Fort Point’s industrial history.
“I was that kooky woman knitting wool in the heat,” she said jokingly. The former metal sculptor took into account not only the neighborhood’s manufacturing past, but also the vines and cracks that wind their way along the concrete.
Just up the road on the fence opposite the street we stopped in front of 85 acrylic blue butterflies. Conceptualized by the tandem of Claudia Ravaschiere and Michael Moss, Flutter brings new meaning to the popular and archetypal butterfly representation. Ravaschiere and Moss have teamed up on several projects in the past, collaborating across mediums, though this one proves to be a “contribution to the visual state.”
“I want to make people think it’s something organic,” Ravaschiere said.
The butterflies themselves were laser-cut after several iterations proved unable to withstand the unpredictable and notoriously fickle New England weather. The current installments have proven themselves sturdy already and provide an eye-catching break along the fence between the sidewalk and bleak parking lot on the other side.
“The butterfly is an age-old, cross-cultural symbol of great power, transformation, freedom, joy and the power of change” that echoes Fort Point as an “evolving neighborhood,” said Moss.
The cohort then meandered through the lobby of the nearby 315 on A apartment complex and subsequent Made in Fort Point store, to the other side of the building where, built into the facade at ground level, we encountered our third piece.
Aptly dubbed Flower Blanket, Liliana Folta strung together plastic bags that span the color spectrum and transformed them into over 400 flower bulbs strung together to form a blanket-like mat. She tried vigorously to incorporate entire plastic bags, rather than taking snippets from them, and added several other atypical materials to her work.
“It’s a representation of the end of the season, summer, my favorite time of year,” said Folta.
What’s most engaging about her piece, perhaps, is its vibrancy from completely recycled materials. The blanket, after all, is just one facet of the multidimensional installment.
“I like to use a lot of recycled materials,” she added.
Behind a glass encasement within the wall are a combination of dry branches, recycled tissue paper, tea lights and egg cartons which give the illusion of blossoming flora.
On went the tour, to the Summer Street bridge where we saw, floating in the middle of Fort Point Channel, a massive pyramid structure that appeared to be compiled of cobblestones.
Don Eyles built the 16’ x 10’ x 10’ structure, tethered in the channel by a 90-foot chain, solely out of styrofoam. Weighing in at 700 pounds, he intended for it to appear built of cobblestones to reflect Boston’s history and some of the streets still in use today.
But like the other pieces mentioned, it possesses deeper meaning.
“It references the Platonic solids and forms a perfect octahedron when reflected off the water,” explained Eyles. Interestingly, though, the octahedron represents air.
It’s tied to the channel floor by a chain, but it’s still able to float around when tides are lower in the art basis between the Summer and Congress street bridges.
Though there Channel has seen several floating art projects in the past, usually lasting for about a month at a time, Eyles designed his to last in the neighborhood for one to three years. The Fort Point Operations Board provided funding for the piece, along with along with some raised from the Friends of Fort Point Channel.
The tour concluded at Shimmer, another piece by Ravaschiere and Moss on view at the intersection of Congress and Dorchester streets, which employ the refractive qualities of translucent plexiglass and wind-driven kinetics, as pictured below.
Unfortunately, I had a prior engagement and had to duck out early so I was unable to witness the colorful Shimmer first-hand. But in some respects, I didn’t have to.
Traditionally, Fort Point has been a haven for artists, but now, there’s something different, something that alludes to both the modern and the classical that’s giving the neighborhood a fresh take on arts and culture.
The communal feel is evident, as artists promote each other’s works, sell them in a highly frequented store and host tours such as this to promote an area of Boston that’s constantly evolving without losing the characteristics that make it unique and beautiful. It’s an urban oasis within a constantly expanding city that helps provide an identity for Boston as perhaps the epicenter of ideas, knowledge and beauty, and everything in between.
Images via author unless otherwise noted