The announcement last year that the Institute of Contemporary Art ( ICA) was expanding to East Boston’s waterfront was huge news for the community. For the past year, the ICA has been rehabbing an old industrial warehouse at the Boston Shipyard and Marina on Marginal Street across from KO Pies into the ICA’s new Eastie home, “The Watershed”.
Housed in a former copper pipe factory, the 15,000-square-foot, raw, industrial space will be unlike anything in Boston and will be open at the end of June. Award-winning firm Anmahian Winton Architects has been engaged to restore the historic building for new use and create a unique space for immersive artworks engaged with the site. An introductory gallery will focus on the historic shipyard, while a waterside plaza will serve as a casual gathering space.
At a neighborhood meeting Monday. Deputy Director for Public Engagement and Planning for the ICA Kelly Gifford updated the community on the anticipated opening of the Watershed in June.
“This is an incredible warehouse space,” said Gifford. “We are in the process of restoring the space into a raw seasonal artistic space that will be open from Memorial Day to Columbus Day.”
Gifford said the art space would be broken up into three sections. The first section will be devoted to the history of the shipyard.
“We are working with some local historians and members of the East Boston Museum and Historical Society,” said Gifford. “We want to be able to tell the story of the shipyard through film and archival photography.”
There will be a community room with tables, chairs, couches and coffee carts.
The main space, according to Gifford, will be dedicated to seasonal art shows. Each year, the ICA will pick an artist to develop a conceptual art show for The Watershed.
“This will be the main space in the building,” said Gifford. “We want to pick artists who can attract the widest audience possible and be something that entire families can enjoy.”
Gifford said the inaugural exhibition for The Watershed will be by internationally renowned artist Diana Thater whose exhibition will center on the San Francisco native’s artwork Delphine. In this monumental work, underwater film and video footage of swimming dolphins spills across the floor, ceiling, and walls, creating an immersive underwater environment. As viewers interact with Delphine, they become performers within the artwork, their own silhouettes moving and spinning alongside the dolphins’.
In addition to Delphine, “The Watershed” will feature a recent sculptural video installation, “A Runaway World,” focused on the lives and worlds of species on the verge of extinction and the illicit economies that threaten their survival. Produced in Kenya in 2016 and 2017, “A Runaway World” is staged within a unique architectural environment of free-standing screen structures designed by the artist.
“We will open the doors on Wednesday, June 27, but there will be two soft opening for East Boston residents and ICA members only on June 23 and 24,” said Gifford.
Gifford added the ICA is super excited about the harbor connection component of The Watershed.
“We will be running a daily ferry from the ICA at the Seaport to The Watershed,” said Gifford. “We are currently contracting boats that will run the ferry service six days a week. We did a couple of test runs over the summer and we were able to shuttle 300 people from the Seaport to East Boston in about three hours. We are letting people on the other side of the harbor know there is no parking at the Watershed so the ferry is the best option.”