Artists for Oceans Brings World-Class Public Art and Events to Promote Ocean Advocacy

Living on a sailboat at the Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina on Marginal in East Boston Harbor Arts Director Matthew Pollock knows first hand the impacts of sea level rise and global warming. 

“I live on a boat in East Boston and I see the impacts of climate change everyday from extreme tides to pollution in the water, as a coastal community we need to bring attention to these very real issues,” said Pollock. 

So in May of last year Pollock reached out to international nonprofit PangeaSeed Foundation to bring their globally renowned public art program, Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans, to Eastie. 

Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans is part of global initiatives and over 400 murals in 16 countries calling attention to climate change have been painted around the world from New Zealand to Mexico to Indonesia to the Caribbean. 

“I reached out to PangeaSeed Foundation around May 2019 and told them the community of East Boston deserves an amazing project like this,” he said. “They got back to me right away and told me it would be a really good fit.”

As Director of HarborArts, Pollock became the local project director for putting PangeaSeed Foundation’s public art initiative at the Shipyard as well as the Mary Ellen Welch Greenway. 

Curated by Linda Cabot, Sea Walls Boston will install six large-scale public murals throughout Eastie this month, as well as host a series of accompanying virtual community events.

“It’s very exciting because this is the first time Sea Walls is coming to the Northeast and Eastie is home to Sea Walls Boston,” said Pollock. “This is going to be part of a bigger pilot project that will involve more artists and more murals all in East Boston in the near future.”

Sea Walls Boston kicked off on Tuesday with the creation of the first four of six large-scale ocean-themed murals at the Shipyard. 

Participating talents are local ARTivists Silvia López Chavez, Julia “JULZ” Roth + Cedric “Vise1” Douglas, Josie Morway, IMAGINE, Sophy Tuttle, and Artists for Humanity featuring teen leaders from East Boston. 

“We will start at the Shipyard on Sept. 1 through Sept. 99 and then do the next two murals at the Mary Ellen Welch Greenway from Sept. 14 to the 19,” said Pollock. “By this weekend we will be in full force and the murals will start to take shape on the sides of buildings at the Shipyard.”

Pollock said originally the project was to culminate into a ten-day public art festival in Eastie scheduled for this month. Planned by a team of community leaders, artists, and change-makers, the event was to feature 15 international and regional artists coming together to paint for a purpose giving East Boston’s coastal communities a creative voice through public art and activism. 

However, in the wake of COVID-19, the Sea Walls Boston team has rescheduled the main event to July of 2021 but will continue in the form of a pilot project next month. The Sea Walls Boston team has listened to the community and has received positive feedback that Eastie wants to see public art installed this year. 

“Now more than ever, there is no better way to bring positivity to the community than to add fresh, bright colors to the neighborhood during an extraordinarily difficult time,” said Pollock. 

“Sea Walls Boston is working diligently to ensure that the program keeps artists, volunteers, and the community safe, following the guidelines from the State of Massachusetts, the City of Boston, and the CDC. For the safety of the artists and the general public, we will be hosting public events as part of Sea Walls Boston online. If the public chooses to visit the mural locations while they’re in progress, the organizers ask that they wear a mask, social distance from other viewers, and respect the artists’ safety by remaining at a distance.”

Pollock said presenting Sea Walls Boston is long-time PangeaSeed Foundation supporter Linda Cabot. Cabot is a lifelong ocean advocate, sailor, and founder of Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, a Boston-based nonprofit that challenges students to explore issues impacting the oceans through art. Sea Walls Boston is produced in partnership with Boston Harbor Now, Ocean Havens, East Boston Main Streets, the Davis Companies, the East Boston Foundation, ZUMIX, Artists for Humanity, the Donald McKay School, the Barr Foundation, the Friends of the Mary Ellen Welch Greenway (formerly the East Boston Greenway), and many members of the East Boston community. The project is also supporting local small businesses and restaurants impacted by COVID-19 by purchasing materials and food for the artists and volunteers.

Pollock said the project, which runs through September 20th in conjunction with Eastie Week, provides a series of opportunities for the community to get involved and learn more about how they can become stewards of our oceans. 

“In addition to the new collection of monumental public art installations, Sea Walls Boston will bring a whole host of virtual educational programming including artist talks, panelist “conversations”, and family activities like a free downloadable Coloring Companion that will engage local youth with the murals being painted in their neighborhood,” said Pollock. “These murals are being painted with a purpose to give our oceans a creative voice, by serving as educational tools and conversation-starters about locally relevant key issues affecting our oceans, environment, and people. Four of the mural sites are located at Boston Harbor Shipyard & Marina, and two are located on the Mary Ellen Welch Greenway.”

For more information on Sea Walls Boston, please visit seawalls.org or contact the local Sea Walls team at [email protected] 

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