Though not volcanic (as far as we know…), something is stirring in the drumlins of the Boston Harbor Islands this summer.
The Isles Arts Initiative is a series of site-responsive installations, events, performances, screenings, and exhibitions in and about the Boston Harbor Islands. Some of the region’s most exciting artists – including 18 past awardees of MCC’s Artist Fellowships Program – are involved as exhibiting artists or performers. IAI is a project by Liz Devlin of FLUX.Boston, in partnership with the Boston Harbor Islands Alliance, Greenovate Boston, DCR Massachusetts, the Boston Art Commission, and (as the islands are designated National Parks) the National Park Service.
There’s a long tradition of artists partnering with federal agencies and initiatives. We asked Charles Tracy of the National Park Service, one of the earliest collaborators on the project, about the origins of the Isles Arts Initiative, art in the National Parks, and opportunities for artists in partnering with the NPS.
ArtSake: How did your collaboration on the Isles Arts Initiative begin?
Charles: It began with a meeting over a year ago with Liz Devlin at Espresso Love on Broad Street. I was impressed with her seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm for bringing art to the Boston Harbor Islands – two traits I knew that we would need to make it happen.
ArtSake: What has surprised you the most about working on the Isles Arts, thus far?
Charles: The widespread interest in being part of the Isles Arts Initiative within a broad spectrum of the Boston arts community – artists, galleries, museums. It almost seemed as though people were just waiting for this to happen. I think it is also due to Liz Devlin’s networking expertise.
ArtSake: What do you hope visitors to the Isles Arts Initiative will take with them after experiencing it?
Charles: I hope they will see the Boston Harbor Islands and their relationship to it in a new way; I hope they will think about the need to protect these incredible places; and I hope they will leave with a desire to return to the Boston Harbor Islands for recreation and exploration.
ArtSake: Why is it important to you to include the work of artists in the National Parks?
Charles: I don’t think it is just important, I believe it is imperative that artists engage in National Parks. We need artists to help us bring a wider range of interpretation and visitor experience than the National Park Service itself provides – so that we can connect with a broader range of visitors.
ArtSake: What opportunities are there to work with the National Park Service that artists might not know about?
Charles: The National Park Service has a growing interest in working with artists, especially on temporary installations, as evidenced by the recent works by Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz and JR on Ellis Island. We have more than 50 national parks that offer artist-in-residencies; beyond that, many more parks without a formal program are exploring working with artists.
The Isles Arts Initiative is a Summer 2015 public art series on the Boston Harbor Islands and in Boston that will capture the intrinsic beauty of the 34 harbor islands. An exhibition at Fort Point Arts Community’s Atlantic Wharf Gallery and installation at Boston Harbor Islands Welcome Center are on view now. The site-responsive installations of COVE and the performance series SEEN/UNSEEN both begin July 11, 2015. Exhibits at the WGBH Digital Mural, Boston Sculptors Gallery, Boston Children’s Museum open later this summer.
Charles Tracy is a landscape architect with the National Park Service who guides long-distance trail development and regional landscape conservation and recreation initiatives in New England, including the newly-designated New England National Scenic Trail. On the national level, he specializes in partnerships with artists and arts organizations to expand the role of artist-in-residency programs in national parks and the use of art as a catalyst for inspiring environmental stewardship. Contact Charles at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images: all images courtesy of Isles Arts Initiative: SEEN/UNSEEN on Spectacle Island; headshot of Charles Tracy; Fort Warren on Georges Island, location of site-responsive installations for COVE; ISLE DE MONSTRUOS NEWSSTAND by the !ND!V!DUALS, located at the Boston Harbor Islands Welcome Center; promo image for Isles Arts Initiative.