Last month, the ICA Watershed opened its doors for the first time. It’s located at the Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina in East Boston—right across from their Seaport location and connected by ferry. The installation will be open through October 8, but now’s an excellent time to visit if you’re hoping to do something that gets you out of the heat.
What it is:
The shipyard used to be second only to Ellis Island as the largest port for immigration to America; that legacy is still part of the makeup of East Boston. Formerly a condemned building that used to be a copper pipe factory, the 15,000-square-foot Watershed was just converted into a new civic and cultural asset.
The Watershed is a seasonal space, meaning it’ll be open from Memorial to Columbus Day every year. Anmahian Winton Architects (AW) designed the renovation and restoration, which cost $10 million. The ICA is leasing the space from Massachusetts Port Authority.
What you’ll see:
Every summer, ICA will use the space for a different modern installation. Their first exhibition is a series of installations by Diane Thayer (photos here). She creates interactive colored light and moving-image projections; her artwork Delphine is made up of projections of swimming dolphins on four walls, the floor, and ceiling, creating an immersive piece. As you travel through it, your shadows are reflected on the walls and you become part of the art.
Thater is also displaying sculptural video installations. A Runaway World and As Radical as Reality, which she produced in Kenya, shows endangered and dying species walking slowly past on tall glass screens, including the last male northern white rhinoceros and elephants. Via screens on the floor, dying monarch butterflies flit softly around as part of Thater’s Untitled Video Wall (Butterflies). In her Day for Night series, she documents the subtle movement of flowers and rain. The goal of these works is to connect the audience to the fragile, evolving natural world—it’s no accident that the installation is so close to the harbor and the aquatic life beyond.
There’s a shipyard gallery and short video that takes you through the history of East Boston and its development through today. The Harbor Room is currently showing an installation of the ICA’s digital photography program (all photos taken by participating teens) and opens to a plaza with a view of the harbor and skyline.
How to take the ferry:
On the Seaport side, you can catch the ferry from the Fan Pier Dock next to the ICA. On the East Boston side, the ferry leaves from the Piers Park Dock, five minutes away from the Watershed. The ferry price is included in the regular museum admission and free for ICA members or visitors 17 and under. If you’re starting your trip from the ICA in the Seaport, especially if you’re going on the weekend, the ICA recommends you should reserve your boat ticket in advance on the ICA website. By year two, the ICA hopes that a public ferry will be in place.
How it helps Boston:
Colette Randall, director of marketing and communications at the ICA, says, “We have had an incredibly positive response to the Shipyard Gallery, which offers visitors historical information about the Boston Shipyard and Marina as well as the dynamic East Boston neighborhood in which the Watershed is located.”
In a New York Times article, ICA director Jill Medvedow spoke about wanting to keep the original elements of the building and integrating the space with East Boston instead of fighting with it. The ICA has partnered with local companies and entities like Neighborhood Health Center, the East Boston Social Centers and Maverick Landing Community Services.
The Watershed is the capstone project for the ICA’s five-year strategic plan titled A Radical Welcome, which is designed to help intersect contemporary art and civic life in Boston. There’s lots more to come in the summers ahead, but for now it’s worth it just to check out the “new” space and see a rejuvenated part of Boston for the first time.