, Gloucester, MA

January 8, 2013

Editorial: HarborWalk art proposal looms as good investment

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — Yes, there were questions regarding its $1.5 million cost. And, yes, there were delays that forced its opening into August, rather than by the 2012 St. Peter’s Fiesta, as initially hoped.

But by many counts, the city’s new HarborWalk drew rave reviews in its first summer, with visitors not only taking in its views, but making of the walkway’s hi-tech “story moments” portrayed through smart-phone accessible QR codes and videos at the more than 40 granite posts along its path — and with business owners along the walk and beyond noting an increase in pedestrian traffic that began even before it opened.

In that vein, the offer by Mayor Carolyn Kirk and other city officials of up to $47,000 for public art projects for the walk looms as a good investment that can only enhance what has become one of the city’s winning projects.

In its request for proposals, the city is essentially challenging artists across the nation to propose, create and complete new public art installations for the HarborWalk, which extends from roughly the top of St. Peter’s Park to the city’s waterfront I-4 C-2 property, then up to and along Main Street, where walkers can check out even more of the granite “story moment” stopping points.

In pitching its public art proposals, the city is putting up a total of $47,000 in stages: Gloucester officials are poised to award $20,000 for one permanent project, and two additional prizes totaling $27,000 for two other works, at least one of which must be temporary.

The minimum project budget is $7,500, and the city will only consider the first 500 proposals, according to the RFP. And that last number might seem laughable – considering that another important RFP, the one for development of the I-4, C-2 site — has failed to bring a single taker, with a new and significantly revised RFP now in the works (see news story, Page 1).

Yet the appeal of developing a public art installation for a waterfront site in a city with Gloucester’s marine heritage and cache can be expected to draw a lot of interest in the arts community across New England and far beyond.

The offer, at this point, doesn’t commit to following through on any project, especially if the designs don’t meet the judges and city officials’ approval.

But on the surface, there is every reason to expect that a series of public art installations will make the city’s winning waterfront walkway even better — and that should be well worth $47,000.