Meet&Share at 289 Derby

all photos by John Andrews, Creative Salem

This is part 2 of 5 posts documenting the Community Engagement Process for a new public space at 289 Derby. The City of Salem, Salem Public Space Project and Creative Salem welcome the community to participate in an exciting and innovative approach to placemaking. After a public process, CBA Landscape Architects of Cambridge became the primary designers with Salem Public Space Project and Creative Salem working as local leaders tasked with managing the community engagement / schematic design for the parcel.

On May 31, dozens of people representing 22 local organizations gathered at 289 Derby for a deeper discussion for what this new waterfront public space should be. We sat and stood around a very large table and discussed the priorities of each person through the lens of their organization, or group they felt they represented, such as neighborhood associations, young families, or the nearby Derby Lofts.

This was our second Community Design Meeting, and like with the first, we mainly listened. A lot was said! The collective priorities and values were pretty clear, and align well with what we heard in week 1:

  1. Accessible to all people, abilities, ages, ethnicities
  2. Multi-use / multi-programming / community gathering for all seasons
  3. Green Space
  4. Connections to water and Peabody St Park / The Point
  5. Safe
  6. Maintainable

After Dance&Design at 289 Derby, the favorite idea was a “botanical garden with open space for education, music, and dance.” Ultimately, this statement, which received a majority votes in our Week 1 online and on-site surveys, speaks primarily to the desire for an engaging green space integrated with space for programmed, communal gathering.

The need for this 1 acre spot of land to serve many needs, and still function as a beautiful space with a clear identity continued during our second Community Design Event: Meet&Share.

A lot of the comments and desires were ultimately for spaces and elements that have multiple uses and appeal to multiple people of all ages, ethnicities, and abilities.

For instance, some participants did not want another playground. However, many supported integrating an engaging sculpture that could be climbed by kids as well as start conversations with adults as a desirable design solution to multiple competing interests.

Point Neighborhood Association: a place for community meetings and bridging across the water!

Connect

Many expressed desires to connect – by continuing the Harborwalk around the South River, by connecting across the river to Peabody Street Park, and The Point neighborhood, by opening up access to the water, and by designing elements to facilitate social interactions.

Salem Historical Society: make it beautiful with a covered eating area and a micro – forest!

Derby Lofts: Green Space + Bridge over the Water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gather in the Green

We became more specific about what sort of green space and what types of gatherings could happen at 289 Derby.

Participants expressed a desire for resilient and sustainable vegetation that could even involve permaculture including passive food producing plants. We discussed maintenance and somehow getting local support to steward the space. Perhaps this could double with a vertical garden for pollinators, or a green buffer to mitigate the gasoline smell on the west side of the lot, or to buffer against the noise from Derby Street on the north. In fact, the green buffer could perhaps help dampen the noise on site too since people want a space for quiet contemplation.

Many were drawn to the image of a labyrinth that integrates paving with greenery. In fact, this image represents the desire of many to integrate nature with community gathering: “Plants mixed in with sculptural elements” and “Greenspace interspersed with gathering space.” The circular flat space of a labyrinth could help facilitate different activities: a place for quiet walking meditation, a focal point for an amphitheater for theatre or music, a space to lead a yoga class, and a small ice-skating rink in the winter.

Gathering in a beautiful space with green on one side and the water on the other is how many participants want to exercise, especially important for people of all ages.

Derby Lofts: Make it Green! Well lit, safe and pretty and quiet! – an Urbane Oasis!

Young families: gather + eat, gather +watch, perform or teach, traverse!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gather on the Blue

Most participants expressed a desire to connect to the water, through an actual kayak and paddleboard launch, or by having a beautiful fence from which to lean and peer out.

 

SAFE (salem alliance for the environment): green space, botanical garden, access to water, performance space

Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs: eco-friendly, low-impact on environment – vertical gardens! mural on National Grid building!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Place for Games, Performance, and Learning

Most participants also want a space for backyard type games, outdoor spaces for learning and gathering, and performances that aren’t too loud. The noise factor was one area of disagreement. Many expressed a desire for seeing music and performances with the water as backdrop, while others are concerned with the noise.

 

Integrate nature with seating, art, and events for all!

A Place for Contemplation, Art, and Conversation

Many participants expressed a desire for an urban oasis of green where they can rejuvenate since Derby Street lacks green up to the Maritime Center. People would like to contemplate nature, perhaps understand native plants or how a rain garden works. Many suggested using art as a way to start conversations. One participant thought having permanent questions could stimulate discussions – indeed the simple chalkboard wall on site has done just that for a couple weeks!

Some participants reached across the river and suggested that art can improve the look of the National Grid station by weaving through the fence, or painting a mural, or using artful light.

 

Salem Main Streets: spaces that endure through the seasons

Amenities

Thoughtful and creative lighting was a big item! As was having a water-bottle filling station and other amenities such as an on-site calendar of events and a solar-powered phone charging station.

Overall, the desire for some kind of green integrated with many types of gathering spaces and activities predominates.

For our 3rd event – Play&Plan we will show three design options derived from what has been learned so far from our first two meetings, our chalkboard wall, and online surveys – Join us at 289 Derby from 5-8pm on June 7 for Yoga, play with B&S Fitness and Project Adventure, music play with Barbara Maitland! All are welcome!

 

Extended – Call for Writers

Salem Public Space Cards: an artful gaze onto our shared public spaces.

Over a dozen local photographers have chosen and photographed a public space meaningful to them. What will their image inspire you to write about a place that you know or discover in your own way?

Cards will feature a public space photo and a poem/ written reflection inspired by the photo on the other. To be launched and for sale at the Salem Arts Festival, 2017. The Public Space Cards will be packaged with a map of all locations. All proceeds will go towards recovering production cost and then divided equally among participants. (Cost TBD)

Move With Me

Front St View yellow

Through Salem Public Space Project, I led the first community art project at the Salem Arts Festival in 2014, Hula Art, a canopy of hula-hoops over Artists’ Row. The project was a collection of individual art expressions, aggregated together to create a unified installation greater than the sum of its parts. This value of the personal gathered to create a communal work was continued last year with Front Yard Street Art, led by Kate Babcock – fiber artist, and also this year with Move With Me, a pinwheel installation.

We soaked up our locale to guide this year’s project.

courtesy of google images

courtesy of google images

From 1776 to 1812, residents of Salem traded with numerous countries around the world so that they “were also among the handful of people at the time who had direct personal knowledge of the world’s incredibly diverse peoples, art and cultures.” (Dan Monroe, PEM, quoted in the Smithsonian) Wind powered those 18th century sails that connected Salem to the world. That same wind moves through Salem today, 240 years later, in a world more connected than ever.

Currently, a turbine proposal on Winter Island demonstrates how we continue to harness the power of wind to power our way of life. Thinking back on our rich maritime history, and mindful of our shared world as a dialogue between cultures and natural forces, we developed Move With Me.

Doyle Factory

Doyle Sails Factory and Sailcloth to be recycled…. as Pinwheels!

Move With Me invites participants to connect to our continued legacy of sailing by creating pinwheels from sailcloth donated by Doyle Sailmakers, a local institution since 1982! We use the wasted bits and left over pieces to create pinwheels playfully reminiscent of power-generating turbines. Participants connect to distant cultures by taking time to draw out cultural patterns from across the world, directly onto the sailcloth.

The multiple pinwheels above Front Street, like a movable quilt of cultural patterns, will embody the communal movement and connection of cultures across waters and land from the past to now, moving in confluence when the wind is just right.

George, who works at Doyle, even came by my studio later that day to help troubleshoot and figure out the ideal size of the pinwheels!

George Dietz, who works at Doyle, even came by my studio later that day to help troubleshoot and figure out the ideal size of the pinwheels!

I began the process with an encouraging trip to Doyle Sailmakers. Janet Doyle connected with our concept and graciously accepted to be part of our project. We only wanted unusable sailcloth since temporary art can otherwise be so wasteful of our resources.

Move With Me Public Art project photos by Creative Salem_0154

Leslie and Claudia discuss using a template to cut a square from the sailcloth. (photo Creative Salem)

ccp at phoenix

photos Creative Salem

We then began this process in earnerst, as in other years, with the creative students at the Phonenix School! (Thank you, Leslie Lavesque!) Together we worked out pattern sizes and visibility if pinwheels are installed 15 feet above street level, which way to fold the pinwheel arms, and whether to hang them like “propellers” or “ceiling fans” – all this is certainly still in the works!

Move With Me Public Art project photos by Creative Salem_0189

Photo Creative Salem

PHOENIX PATTERNS

We scaled up our efforts when the entire 9th grade class of Salem Academy Charter School joined the effort at Old Town Hall! We discussed how we connect to other cultures by beginning with the familiar maritime trade.

Students choose country and cultural pattern

Students choose country and cultural pattern

In the East India Marine Hall at the Peabody Essex Museum, over 25 countries are represented in the two cabinets of “curiosities” collected over two centuries ago. We used these nations as a jumping off point of choosing different cultures to represent. Interestingly, many of the places represented, due to travel by sail, are island nations, which happen to be the most vulnerable in our changing climate.

PEM East India Marine Hall Cabinets

PEM East India Marine Hall Cabinets with objects from maritime trade places

Salem Maritime Trade Places represented in the PEM Cabinets, and as cultural patterns for Move With Me

Salem Maritime Trade Places represented in the PEM Cabinets, and as cultural patterns for Move With Me

CS_Salem Academy Pinwheel Composite 03

Art and conversation at the workshop and an example of the Phoenix School pinwheels strung up in Old Town Hall. (photos Creative Salem)

Next time we meet, students will bring patterns from countries that hold personal meaning to them. I am excited to represent the whimsical patterns of Romania, my country of birth.

CS_teaching

Alexandra Peterson (of Konceptual) and Claudia Paraschiv (Salem Public Space Project and Studioful) aid in the cultural-pattern drawing (photos Creative Salem)

 

It was wonderful to speak with students about their choices of cultural patterns, the various types of sailcloth, the need for the pinwheels to withstand potential bad weather, and the joy of making art!

IMG_2671

Two vastly different interpretations of a traditional Chinese flower pattern

You too can join! contact us: salempublicspaceproject{at}gmail.com or come participate in the workshop at Artopia PEM/PM, Thursday March 17! 

A how-to manual and more news on our progress coming soon!

A big thank you to John Andrews for the great photos for Creative Salem!

April PNA Meeting

Commitment Cards to Improve the Point!

Commitment Cards to Improve the Point!

The April Neighborhood meeting was a collaboration between the Point Neighborhood Association, the North Shore Community Development Coalition, and multiple local organizations, institutions, and citizens to commit to improving the neighborhood by taking concrete steps to implement the Point Neighborhood Visioning Plan, completed last year.

Some precise accomplishments and next steps discussed include:

  • The Point will be on the National Register for Historic Places
  • Enhance the existing four parks in the neighborhood
  • The grant towards a splash pad – an interactive water play fountain – was announced. It will be located in Mary Jane Lee Park.
  • Employ park ambassadors to enrich the park aesthetics and experience for residents
  • Community gardens to stimulate, foster, and enhance stewardship
  • Enhance the diversity and quantity of affordable housing
  • An analysis of Shetland Park Businesses
  • More bilingual workshops at the NSCDC
  • Work to devise strategies for improving business opportunities along the two main corridors: Congress and Lafayette Streets
  • Celebrate the history of the neighborhood

Of the attendees, it seems like about half were Point residents, while the others were interested parties representing institutions and organizations. Bringing these great ideas, initiatives, and discussions to more residents remains a significant step to take. There are a lot opportunities for creative engagement in the community from the business and entrepreneurial to the artistic – get in touch if you want to be part of any of these endeavors!

Growing Community at Woolson Street Lot

w02 Collective social consciousness of waste, sustainable resources, economics, and pollution have influenced stakeholders to take a broader view of many design professions, especially architecture, which uses the greatest amount of resources of human enterprises. Indeed,  LEED (the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) helps establish standards of responsible resource making and gathering at the onset of design, while the temporal scope of architecture has also expanded beyond the finished building; design professionals need to take responsibility for the future maintenance and, even, potential disposal of the structure. Maintenance of a private residence requires the ultimate initiative of the owner; for public projects, the community is tasked with ongoing stewardship. Uncared for parks demonstrate that municipal trash pick-up isn’t enough. So, in addition to the materials, and the foresight, we need to also design for engagement; community building is a social and spatial problem, and creative design can aid the rigorous community organization of so many neighborhood leaders, activists, and planners.

w03SPSP was happy to be part of such an effort of Saturday, May 3rd in Mattapan in collaboration with the Community Design Resource Center (CDRC),  Boston Natural Areas Network (BNAN), the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition, and neighbors. We were also delighted to re-use four bright orange frames initially created for another project.

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In tandem with the “Boston Shines” city-wide clean-up effort, we erected creative signage on the lot to communicate the message that the planned community garden needs more gardeners. Design for social engagement is a compelling design challenge; the project is often a temporary installation, with no budget, infused with contextual issues and histories, inherently political, that seeks to reach a diverse number of people in circumstances that often hinder civic participation. On the Woolson Street lot, while volunteers cleaned up trash and weeded around daffodils, we posted signs that signal the beginning of the transformation of a lot that has a history of tragedy, and a desired future of community, safety, commemoration, and beautiful gardens!

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The finished signs, including an orange board where all participants signed their names.

If you would like to support the community gardens proposed at the Woolson Street Lot – support the project at Make Architecture Happen! 

ReImagine A Lot: The Transformation of the Palmer Street Lot

00 ReImagine A Lot - 0 Before
The “ReImagine A Lot” dynamic participation project seeks to engage residents to imagine what an abandoned lot could be. The project consists of two parts that reinforce each other: the first part is a physical component that provides the space for civic-social events; in turn, these social events provide the workforce to create and maintain the physical component. Over the course of eight weeks, various stakeholders helped build a mural, a community bulletin board, stump seats, and a suggestion board.
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Point Participants apply primer paint to stump seats

Point Participants apply primer paint to stump seats

The finished colorful seats at the lot

The finished colorful seats at the lot

04 the mural
The civic-cultural events included: the Point Neighborhood Association meeting in the open air, a recycling presentation with games, and a community barbecue with local band The Dejas. The project collected community-supported suggestions for the permanent transformation of the space.
Point Neighborhood Association meeting at the Lot

Point Neighborhood Association meeting at the Lot

Opportunities
The project occurred in the open over the course of eight weeks every Friday from 3 – 6 in the afternoon. This provided the opportunity to create a small ritual.  Kids regularly came and asked if they could help. Eventually, people knew and expected it would happen at its regular time on Friday afternoons. The installation provided participants with an outlet for creative and productive civic work. The physical project provided people with the opportunity to ReImagine what this abandoned lot could be. The civic-cultural events provided the opportunity for social interactions. As for the long-term opportunities, it is still too early to tell.
Recycling Games at the Lot

Recycling Games at the Lot

 

Final Community BBQ at the Lot

Final Community BBQ at the Lot

Challenges
The abandoned lot is located in the densest neighborhood in Salem MA. The Point neighborhood suffers from an image problem, which is perpetuated by outsiders and insiders alike. One of the challenges in creating public art is also its potential destruction. At the beginning of the project, some residents expressed concerns that it would, in fact, be destroyed. Happily this never happened; we imagine it is due to the fact that the community itself participated in building it. Several weeks into the project, one young participant told me of how she witnessed some young boys throwing rocks at the project. She said she went and stopped them since, after all, she “had helped paint it too.” Over two short months, community helpers began to emerge. Carlo, a third floor neighbor who had looked on the progress for several weeks, came down one Friday afternoon and gifted a painting he had made to add to the walls of art. It was to Carlo we went when we needed an outlet to power The Dejas’ performance the day of the BBQ.
The Dejas and community kids play music during the BBQ

The Dejas and community kids play music during the BBQ

We hope that with enough community support, a few things will happen:
1. We will determine the permanent best use(s) for the lot.
2. We will have community support to realize the project.
3. We will have the support to maintain it once it is realized.
4. We will have a great working model for how we can do this again.
5. If we do it again in the same neighborhood, residents are already familiar with the “dialogue” nature of the project and we will build trust, relationships, and a stronger community.
yes, this lot could be fun!

Yes, this lot could be fun!