Harboring Creativity: Launching East Boston Artists at the ICA Watershed

Special to the Times-Free Press

The East Boston Artists Group presents Harboring Creativity: Launching East Boston Artists at the ICA Watershed.  Featuring the work of 40 local emerging and established artists who live, work, or create in East Boston, this presentation is a wonderful reflection of the creativity and innovation of East Boston and the surrounding neighborhoods.  Harboring Creativity will be on view at the ICA Watershed on November 18 and 19 from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. The ICA Watershed is located in the Boston Shipyard and Marina, 256 Marginal Street in East Boston. Entry is free and the artists will be selling their works (cash; credit; Venmo/Zelle).

“For the past 23 years, the East Boston Artists Group has promoted and supported the many artists in East Boston through making their works of art available to the public” according to June Krinsky-Rudder, one of three co-founders of the group. “Founded in 2000, our very first exhibits – hosted by ZUMIX (the award-winning organization for youth leadership through music) – focused on the fact that East Boston is more than an airport; it’s a community. Our humble beginnings in artists’ living rooms led to eleven artists carving out studios at 80 Border Street and hosting our first Open Studios just 14 months after our founding, adding more artists to the building just a few weeks before that. Early support from the East Boston Foundation, Tony’s Realty, ZUMiX, and a number of local restaurants and businesses helped to put EBAG and Eastie on the cultural map. The East Boston Community Development Corporation purchased 80 Border Street in 2006, bringing the structure to code, and attracting the attention of other developers. Since then, the burgeoning arts scene (Atlantic Works Gallery, Boston East Gallery, Clip Art Gallery at Clippership Wharf, HarborArts, the ICA Watershed, and Veronica Robles Cultural Center), and a vibrant blend of cultures have helped to make the neighborhood a destination for visitors and a more interesting place to live. It’s exciting to have the ICA Watershed partnering with EBAG to share our art in their beautiful space which connects us with East Boston’s history as well as its future.”

“Growing up on the East Boston waterfront has been an exciting journey,” stated Artist, Diane Modica.  She added, “Its current transformation follows a storied past of ship building and repair, dock workers, fishing boats, cargo ships, ferries, rail cargo, and transit. All of these were mainstays of the local economy before the port’s decline. 

Modica added, “ I am very excited that  today we see a renaissance of the East Boston waterfront, with a rich and diverse mix of activities throughout our many neighborhoods. , This transformation includes stunning new parks and harbor walks, busy marinas, modern housing, reborn water transit, restaurants, entertainment, a sailing center, community gardens and farms, a reemerging shipyard, enduring ship pilots, and exciting new art venues like the ICA Watershed along with existing and new art galleries on the water. 

In addition, Modica states, “The Massachusetts Public Waterways Act provides that that non waterfront dependent development must allow the public meaningful access to the site where development occurs.  The ICA has been exemplary in meeting their obligation and making good on their commitment to East Boston.  Not only has it offered its own compelling seasonal exhibits at the Watershed, but also it has collaborated with the East Boston Artists Group for this exhibit as well as with other community organizations including East Boston Social Centers, the East Boston Health Center, and the Veronica Robles Cultural Center for their events.” 

The exciting group of artists featured are just a small number of the rich and diverse group of working artists in and around Boston.  Please see here the full list of artists participating in this year’s presentation. 

Also on view is The Beautiful Worlds of David Riley.  This 15-minute short film is a collaboration between East Boston artist David Riley and Waltham documentary filmmaker Cathleen O’Connell. Riley is a self-taught artist who was exposed to high levels of lead as a child. He began painting in his 40s, drawing inspiration for his colorful canvases from the streets of Boston as well as pop culture, movies, and television. O’Connell is an independent documentary producer whose work has been broadcast on PBS, Discovery, and the History Channel.  The film also features an interview with David’s mother and long-time East Boston resident, Fran Riley, who traces her son’s journey as an artist. Fran hopes the film will lead to greater awareness about the long-term impact of lead poisoning on both individuals and families. 

The East Boston Artists Group is grateful to our sponsors – including our partnership with the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston – for their support of this important presentation. (Please contact Diane Modica for additional sponsorship opportunities.)

The East Boston Artists Group (EBAG) was founded in 2000 and held its first Open Studios in 2001. The mission of the organization is to introduce residents of our neighborhood, and visitors from elsewhere to the vibrant arts community and artwork of East Boston. Over the course of 23 years, we have accomplished this through annual Open Studios events, Holiday Open Houses, and exhibits within and outside of the neighborhood.

In 2018, the Institute of Contemporary Art opened the ICA Watershed to the public, expanding artistic and educational programming on both sides of Boston Harbor—the Seaport and East Boston. Located in the Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina, the ICA Watershed transformed a 15,000-square-foot, formerly condemned space into a cultural asset to experience large-scale-art. It has since presented one immersive exhibition each summer, until it was closed to the public in 2020 to support the city and state in their efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. During the pandemic, it was used as a food distribution site to address a direct need within the East Boston community, which experienced one of the highest rates of COVID-19 in Boston. The cross-harbor connection to the Watershed was designed to deepen the vibrant intersection of contemporary art and civic life in Boston and is central to the ICA’s vision of art, civic life, and urban vitality. 

While East Boston’s storied history as a shipbuilding mecca, working port and immigration gateway is woven into the community consciousness, the East Boston waterfront has only recently been reactivated. This has enabled the public access to enjoy magnificent views, parks, sailing, boating, housing, restaurants, and entertainment contributing to Eastie’s growth and prosperity. It also proves that East Boston’s attraction, value and vitality continue to offer numerous opportunities to live, work and play.

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