By Gail McCarthy Staff Writer
Gloucester Daily Times
---- — Public discussions with local artists have begun on the process to create public art on the city’s new $1.2 million, 1.2-mile HarborWalk.
The Gloucester Committee for the Arts held a public information meeting at City Hall on Tuesday night about the upcoming $50,000 Call for Artists. The meeting included an opportunity for committee members to take comments from artists and residents about potential art installations and the selection process.
“It’s a wonderful first step,” said Sarah Garcia, the city’s harbor planning director.
The HarborWalk project was paid for through a grant from the state’s Seaport Advisory Council. The walk consists of a series of sidewalks, boardwalks and paths that jut in and out along Gloucester’s scenic working waterfront.
“The process has always been for the harbor walk to have art,” said Garcia. “When Cambridge 7 (the architects) held their first public meetings for the HarborWalk, one of the comments was we want local involvement and we want public art because we are an arts community. The mayor has said that arts are very important and she was going to take a portion of this Seaport grant and allocate it for public art.”
Recapping comments from this week’s meeting with the city arts committee, Garcia said there were all kinds of opinions expressed — from one person urging the committee to not spread the money too thinly to another resident saying it is not enough money. She also noted that one downtown group said it could do a lot of innovative collaborative art for not much money.
“In my opinion, you can accommodate the spectrum,” said Garcia. “The committee wants the community responses to drive their selection. The idea is to see what the community wants and see what inspires us.”
Susan Erony, an artist and former member of the Committee for the Arts, said she believes many artists were concerned about a perceived time pressure that the realization of public art on the walk be done by next summer.
“That was a significant part of the reaction,” said Erony. “This is the first public art project in Gloucester like this, where the city is actually reaching out to make this available to artists. But the idea to have this ready by next summer does not leave a lot of time to plan and execute work, and there are various ways to use and optimize the money. That’s really what many of the artists were saying. This is Gloucester — it is idiosyncratic and the community does get involved to an amazing extent, and we all have our opinions. I think the meeting was actually quite productive if taken in the right spirit.”
The arts committee plans to meet again next week to further discuss how to proceed; the date and time will be announced.
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3445, or firstname.lastname@example.org.