By Marjorie Nesin
---- — Parsons Street, probably best known as the weed infested, bumpy alleyway down the street from Main Street’s former Empire store and running along the side of Dress Code, will soon boast its own claim to fame.
Jamie Calderwood knelt over the pavement Friday, tracing a grid of lines with sidewalk chalk. He had cleared stray weeds and swept the alley Thursday in preparation for Friday’s work. The chalk will function as an outline for the 190 foot long fishing net mural he plans to paint onto the pavement.
“It connects the harbor with the downtown,” Calderwood explained. “It does it by using the imagery of a fishing net.”
Calderwood is one of three artists whose artwork will contribute to Gloucester’s beautification in coming months.
When the city’s Committee for the Arts called for artists to submit ideas for public art last winter, Calderwood competed with 175 others from 34 different states. His submission and Justin Desilva’s design to paint fun characters and images in 20 city crosswalks will serve as temporary art, while another project by Bartek Konieczny that will add a contemporary art sculpture — metal worked into the shape of a rope — would stay permanently.
The Committee for the Arts pays the artists with $50,000 in funds set aside by Mayor Carolyn Kirk from a Massachusetts Seaport Advisory grant. A jury spent months considering each of the submissions, and many of the proposed projects including the award winners’ now hang in the Sawyer Free Library’s entryway. Five of those semifinalists are Cape Ann residents.
The artists from out of town have already begun sampling and enjoying downtown’s stores and restaurants while they work and plan. Many had visited Gloucester before applying to the call for artists.
Catherine Ryan, the mayor’s liaison to the Committee for the Arts, said the projects are meant to answer a call from the public to add an emphasis on the arts to Gloucester’s downtown.
“It’s thinking about where you can grab public space in an urban area,” Ryan said.
While the committee could only award three artists with the funds to create their projects, other city entities are already eyeing some of the finalist submissions, the ones now posted in the library. The committee hopes some of those, too, might become pilot programs.
“I’m just blown away by how people were inspired,” Ryan said.
The sculpture and crosswalks remain in planning stages. The sculpture’s artist is working out final plans for the knot design and deciding on a location, leaning now toward the island in Tally’s Corner. Gloucester’s Department of Public Works is working out the details of the crosswalk painting, to consider safety.
While the artists and the city are working out details of the sculpture and the crosswalks, Calderwood expects to finish his net design, painted with latex line striping paint, early this week. He used a handmade wooden tool, essentially a stick with an insert for his chalk, to save his back as he etched out lines on the pavement Friday. Part of the chalk snapped off and he picked it up and continued to etch.
“Everything changes. You’ve got to be very flexible,” Calderwood said. “As I work up, it’s not going to be perfect. It will undulate a little bit, and we’ll just see where it leads.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.