By John Lynds
Last week’s major announcement that Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is planning an expansion on East Boston’s waterfront was met with great excitement in the neighborhood.
The ICA plans to renovate a condemned industrial warehouse at the Boston Shipyard and Marina on Marginal Street across from KO Pies into a thriving community art space.
“This is exciting news for East Boston,” said City Councilor Sal LaMattina. “To have an institution like the ICA come to the neighborhood will have positive impacts not only for the visitors but also for the water transportation piece of this proposal with the inclusion of water taxi service between both sites. I believe that this is a partnership that will work and will greatly benefit the neighborhood and the ICA.”
ICA officials made the announcement last Wednesday that it will expand its artistic programming across the Harbor to a temporary site at the shipyard in Eastie.
“We are honored to be a part of the East Boston landscape, a community that has long championed the arts, public parks, and the waterfront,” said the ICA Director Jill Medvedow.
According to the ICA the new space, dubbed the Watershed, is projected to open in summer 2018 pending permitting and final design. The ICA said they need to bring the currently condemned building up to code but want to keep a raw industrial feel to the building. The shipyard has played host to HarborArts, an annual art festival that uses art and artists to bring attention to the global climate change and water pollution, for several years.
“We will present art and public programs in the new 15,000-square-foot space seasonally while continuing our regular programming in the Seaport year-round,” said Medvedow. “The Watershed will be a raw, industrial space for art unlike any other in Boston, where visitors can experience immersive projects by artists engaged with the site, space, and issues related to this unique location.”
In addition to a flexible space for art and programs, the Watershed will house an introductory gallery focused on the historic shipyard and a waterside plaza that will serve as a gathering place.
“East Boston has long been a destination for great restaurants, beautiful green spaces, and a thriving artist community,” said Rep. Adrian Madaro. “Soon, thanks to the forward looking approach taken by the ICA, East Boston is bound to become an international attraction, sharing the tourism boom which has graced Boston at large. The ICA’s $10 million investment will further enhance our waterfront and will amplify the attractiveness of our thriving neighborhood.”
ICA officials added that the the Watershed will represent an exciting and creative mode of growth for the ICA museum.
“With this project, the ICA will make a cross-harbor connection that is central to our vision of art, civic life, and urban vitality,” said Medvedow. “It takes art beyond our walls, building upon a decade-long history of public art projects that bring together landscape, history, and contemporary art. The new facility is a central component of the ICA’s recently completed five-year strategic plan, A Radical Welcome, designed to deepen the vibrant intersection of contemporary art and civic life in Boston.”
The Medvedow added that the Watershed would be free and open to the public.
“Boston’s waterfront and harbor are one of the most unique aspects of our City, and I’m pleased the ICA is supporting our creative community in this welcoming East Boston space,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “The Watershed will offer Boston a new, engaging space for art and discovery, and I welcome their investment in Boston’s diverse artists, residents and visitors.”
Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association Chair, Margaret Farmer, said welcomed the news because she felt Eastie has long been underrepresented by the arts and culture of Boston.
“It is exciting to have a cultural institution that we can see, right across the water, see us as well,” she said. “In speaking with staff at the ICA, they have expressed a desire to work with the community and support local businesses and performers and we are happy to support them in making sure that happens.”
Medvedow added, “We are thrilled to launch this exciting new journey and to create new opportunities for art and artists and to deepen the connection between the natural and cultural resources of Boston.”