Merging the Waterfront, and the Fruits of Labor in Public Art

Special to the Record

The Island End River is a small tidal tributary off the Mystic River close to where it empties into the Boston Harbor. At its terminus sits the New England Produce Center, a sprawling wholesale regional food market that is an essential part of the entire surrounding region’s food distribution infrastructure. This low-lying area built atop a salt marsh and tidal floodplain remains extremely vulnerable to flooding, and was identified as a priority area in the City of Chelsea’s 2018 Municipal Vulnerability Plan.  

As the City of Chelsea works to address coastal flooding through a redesign and improvement of the Island End River Park, the City is also focused on improving park accessibility and placemaking, enhancing the natural shoreline, and providing equitable waterfront access to its diverse communities, which have been among the hardest hit in the state by the Covid-19 pandemic.  

As part of this effort, the City has partnered with three artists to engage with youth on public art and creative placemaking to involve the community in the planning process.  Lead artist Carolyn Lewenberg along with Ruth Henry and Eileen Riestra and a youth team from  La Colaborativa installed a giant pineapple sculpture in the intertidal zone near the Island End Park, using absurdity to get people’s attention and draw people into conversation about climate change impacts and what is being done to protect the community. 

A trail of stencil art designed by youth with support from the artist team lead people from the Mystic River at Mary O’Malley State Park along the Island End River to the site. Youth are exploring themes of personal and community resilience in their designs. The team will create a self-guided walking tour to explain how the stencils represent their experiences of resilience. The stencils begin behind the tennis courts at Mary O’Malley State Park and end at the giant pineapple at Island End Park. The tour will be scheduled for early May. 

This project is supported by the Chelsea Cultural Council – Heritage Celebrations Grant Funding.

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