, Gloucester, MA

September 10, 2013

Art project spotlights historic Rockport wharf

By Gail McCarthy
Staff Writer

---- — ROCKPORT — Historic Lumber Wharf has taken on an artistic air this summer.

It’s also taken on more lumber — with a temporary art installation that is built with lumber and will remain in place through the middle of this month.

Rob Trumbour, an artist, architect and resident of Rockport, organized a design-build workshop with a group of architecture students, who created space where residents and visitors have stopped, sat and even laid down to take in the panoramic views of the seaside town.

There are two elements to the design of the public art installation. The large one, nearest to the steps is about 14-feet by 40-feet, while a second one, nearer to the harbor is about 10-feet by 16-feet.

In partnership with the town, this temporary art installation is located on public land that falls within the new Downtown Rockport Cultural District. It was a prime spot for the town’s first-ever public fireworks show in August.

The Rockport Cultural District Facebook page has had numerous postings, and nothing but positive feedback on this project throughout the summer, said Karen Berger, who led the steering committee for the cultural district. She noted that a short video posted on the Facebook page reached more than 6,000 people in less than 48 hours.

Berger, who chairs the Town Art Committee, said the installation has proven an overwhelming success. Berger applauded town administrator Linda Sanders for her vision and approval of this project.

“First, it demonstrates Rockport’s capacity to embrace a varied vibrant and contemporary art practice,” she said. “And secondly, at any time of the day or evening, children and adults alike are drawn to the work.

“I have never seen as many visitors on Lumber Wharf as this summer,” she added. “I find myself drawn to the wharf whenever I am in town. It is a win-win project for the town.”

Trumbour, who has an undergraduate fine arts degree and a graduate degree in architecture, is an assistant professor at Wentworth Institute of Technology.

He began a program called Artforming Summer-Build, which was developed to give architecture students an opportunity to actually build something in the field so they can see the relationship of their design work and how it plays out during the construction phase. It is an exercise in the students taking their spatial thinking to the next level in the “making” of their design.

The group of students first spent the day wandering around Rockport to learn about its past and present.

“I wanted to see how students reacted to history of the town and the industries that have come and gone,” said Trumbour. “That wharf goes back to the mid-1700s when one of the original wharf companies bought the waterfront property and leased it out.

“The lumber industry was among the first to use that land as a shipping point,” he noted, “and then the fishing industry took off.”

The various cycles of industry kept recurring and with that vision, the design process began.

“We thought we wanted to add something to the space and keep people there longer to experience it in a different way. Even though the structure has been described as wave-like, that term never came up during our discussion,” said Trumbour.

The project took about 12 days to design and build overall, with about four of those days devoted to the construction. They did most of the building off site so as not to disturb the area residents and limited work on site to one full day.

“I’ve had my eye on that spot for years,” said Trumbour. “Not as many people wander down there, so in thinking about this workshop, that location came to mind.”

This is not the first of his public displays. A few years ago, he was part of an effort with a six-foot wide ice installation, one at the Headlands, the other in open space next to the Old Firehouse that has the view to Motif No. 1.

“These walls of ice were there for 10 to 14 days, and we had summer photos of the Motif in the blocks of ice, standing there like totems and lit at night,” he said.

There was also an installation at the end of T-Wharf.

“I keep one foot in the art world and one foot in the architectural world,” said Trumbour. “I hope there will be more public projects in the future.”

For more information, visit the Rockport Cultural District Facebook page or

Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3445, or at