The Public Art Salon: A Community Table on Artists’ Row

Circle collage illustrating a variety of mosaic possibilities – plants, bark, stones, ceramic, shells, colors. Each participant can craft their own circle, and integrate it into the larger collective artwork.

What is Artists’ Row?

Artists’ Row is a pedestrian way in the heart of Salem defined by several small shed buildings where artists practice their craft and sell their handiwork. The Row has been a creative space for artists and ‘creative entrepreneurs’ to incubate their work and establish an audience. Creative and spontaneous, the Row is an underrated place in Salem. Come see the artists working daily on their craft – and support this local work!

Artist Row before the new color transformation

The summer of 2017 brings lots of changes to the Row. In the spring, students from Lesley University College of Art and Design, led by local graphic designer Rick Rawlins, designed a comprehensive aesthetic vision for the Row: inspired by the nautical history, and complementing the color of the green metal roofs, the buildings would serve as a background to frame the artists’ work and don a soothing gray. The color also helps frame the spaces between the buildings – the nooks – that could become intimate spaces for reading, crafting, or simply sitting. Finally, “Artists’ Row” would then be stenciled onto the buildings in bright colors to orient visitors. We’re in the middle of this transformation: the large picture windows showcasing the work, for instance at Boston Woodturning and ZBY Gallery – help bring the inside artistry outside.

Inter-generational, drop-in friendly workshops for all skill levels where participants contribute artwork for a large community piece.

What is the Artist in Residence Program on Artists’ Row?

The Public Art Commission and the Mayor’s Office has also launched a new Artist in Residence program on the Row.

The Artist in Residence Pilot Program seeks to bring the Salem community into the creative process through participatory project-based activities for all ages at Artists’ Row. Of particular interest are placemaking programs that help residents and visitors re-imagine public spaces as places to play, engage, and create. Placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community, strengthening the connection between people and the places they share.

I am grateful to be part of the pilot program and hopefully help establish an ongoing Artist Residency on the Row.

The Public Art Salon creates a safe environment for self-and-collective expression while making friends and talking about community.

What is the Public Art Salon?

The Public Art Salon program I developed as Artist in Residence in Four Corners, Dorchester in 2015-16 is a good fit for Artists’ Row. The Public Art Salon is a place-and-project-based weekly workshop in which the local community helps to create a community driven projects. This is a wonderful excuse to make friends, incubate local talent, and make art together. I am excited to develop the Public Art Salon on Aritsts’ Row!

Preparatory work for the community table using pallets and sap buckets.

What is the Community Table for People and Pollinators?

The Row is a linear plaza that is too often used for walking through, rather than for staying. Establishing Artists’ Row as a destination was the main desire that arose during several meetings with the Artist Row tenants this past spring. These meetings began my research into what would be the ideal project to work on as the Row’s first Artist in Residence.

Nature collages from Salem Woods.

Materials from Artists’ Row Creative Entrepreneurs: ZBY Gallery, Boston Woodturning, Grace&Diggs, Hervor Soaps, Ceramics by Sibel, Salem Food Tours, and The Lobster Shanty

Together, we developed the idea of a Community Table:

  • To engage people to stay, we will build a Community Table
  • To engage participants in the work and world of the creative artists on the Row, we are using materials from their shops to help create the table-top surfaces.
  • To connect to nature, like the Artists’ Row artists, we will also use natural materials to decorate the table tops
  • To expand the notion of community, we will invite pollinators to the table with native plants for pollinators.
  • To reach as many people as possible, we’ll host the Salon during the Salem Farmers’ Market!
  • To help incubate young talent, we’re getting help from emerging artists and professionals:
    • Artist in Residence, Claudia Paraschiv
    • Ecological landscape design with local
      Annie Scott,
    • Art-making with Lexiee Batakis
    • Face Art with Alison Troy @AlisonTroy
    • Reading Nook design with David Rabkin

We have had a flurry of activity during our first two Salons! Please join us at our next four! This week we will have a demonstration hive from Beverly Bees who is also at the Salem Farmers’ Market.

Week One – Meet & Mosaic!

Participants make mosaics from natural and artistic materials at the first Salon.

Salon co-hosts (left to right) Michael saws table legs, Lexiee cuts out space for the bee buckets, Alison creates Face Art


Week Two – Native Perennials with Thrive Design!

Participants help ecological designer Annie Scott plant perennial native plants for pollinators.

Lots of painting – driftwood for a vertical element, David (Wentworth Architecture Student) creates seating for the Reading Nook, and participants mix paint.

The Community Table for People and Pollinators is coming along!

Alison Troy Face Art inspired by our Garden Day!

In the News!

Salem Main Streets 

Salem Gazette  

Party at 289 Derby!

Retonica laser show finale at Party at 289 Derby – all photos by Creative Salem

The five 289 Derby Community Design Events happened every Wednesday evening from May 24 – June 21. During the events, we collaboratively shaped the future of a new waterfront park – 289 Derby.The five 289 Derby Community Design Events happened every Wednesday evening from May 24 – June 21. During the events, we collaboratively shaped the future of a new waterfront park – 289 Derby.

A lot of the creative input from the community was inspiring and useful as we all collaboratively created the design!

Event Two: Meet&Share at 289 Derby, May 31 – collage input sheets (names/contact have been omitted)

Event Four: Placemaking Placemats showing the two plan options (names/contacts have been omitted)

For a comprehensive documentation of the events, click here: 289Derby_Documented_no contacts_2017.08.19

The final event featured active engagement of the entire space. Since the “Curvilenear” plan was the overwhelming favorite, we drew the primary shape on the compacted asphalt so that people could see the proposed line between green and paved surfaces. We lined up chairs, tables, and design sections throughout the space, and people spread out across the lot in small groups.

Engagement Doors transformed into sculptural art-making

In the center of the space, we used the “Engagement Doors” to create a sculptural piece to be painted by participants. With the help of Creative Salem’s Kati Nalbandian and Joey Phoenix, participants painted the seasons on the doors inspired by the desire for a year-round space. The final event felt like a block party, and people expressed satisfaction with the design proposal.

Brothers Taverna serve delicious falafel, dolma – stuffed grape leaves, and hummus!

Unlike the other events, the final was less structured. People walked the site, met with each other, ate food from Brothers Taverna, listened to local band, Model Citizens, and got close to the river when Coast to Coast paddleboarders came up for a visit.

Coast to Coast Paddle paddled up from Forest River Park!

For our final engagement activity, we engaged people to sign up for becoming a “Friend of 289 Derby” for the ongoing engagement and stewardship of the space as it goes through design and after construction is completed. We provided refrigerator magnets people could take to remember the project by; 48 people signed up to help with stewardship of the space, design, and programming across five categories:

Memento Magnates for Friends of 289 Derby – keep in touch!

Green Space: 16 volunteers
Events: 10 volunteers
Kid’s Activities: 7 volunteers
Art-making: 4 volunteers
General help: 10 volunteers

Inspecting and discussing the final schematic design!

Someone suggested that we poll people for potential names for the space:
South River Park
Derby St Greenway
Derby River Lot
Derby Green
Lawn on Derby
Salem Space
289 Derby

At the final event, one participant said they have enjoyed watching 289 Derby transform from an uneven parking lot into a place for community gathering. They noted the timeline: first the ground was evened, then murals livened up the brick wall, then we painted the colorful stumps for seating, then strung pinwheels on the water’s edge, and now – at the final event – the space is filled with groups of people here and there, chatting, sitting, looking over the favorite plan design, in the shade of a tree, watching kids paint, looking out at the water.

Using the whole space, we had a great placemaking and community design party!

The Community Engagement facilitated by Salem Public Space Project and Creative Salem resulted in community buy-in and enthusiasm for the collaborative design and stewardship of a the new waterfront park. It’s meaningful that the transformation of 289 Derby was a local effort that showcased the varied talent in our small city, and the strong passion for community.

With this local support, we’ve succeeded in our three objectives:

1. We collaboratively designed a schematic plan direction with strong public support (80% per our Placemaking Placemats)

2. We created the types of events that could actually happen on site – from an outdoor movie, to dancing, to paddle-boarding in the South River – and helped collectively imagine the possibilities.

3. The above efforts inspired interest in local stewardship of some key elements of the park and programming for 289 Derby.

Model Citizens sang, people watched, and brought their own entertainment too

CBA Landscape Architects further developed the “curvy” scheme for our final event.
The schematic plan shows a balance between community desires: green space helps define paved surfaces, both flexible for varied activities. The design buffers the noise from Derby Street, and seeks to open to the water.

Final schematic plan – CBA Landscape Architects

The seating is both flexible, and integrated with the green space edge, and may hold some playful surprises.  The green space is both peaceful with educational elements including demonstration garden with native plants for pollinators. These physical elements will help facilitate the desire for a safe, peaceful space connected to nature, and balanced with bustling community gatherings for performances and group exercise in the summer, and ice skating in the winter.

Different program options – CBA Landscape Architects

With a budget of 750K from a state grant, the priority will be to create a beautiful, resilient container that will facilitate these varied desires – such as an amphitheater-like space, lawn with shade and trees, a multi-use stage, good lighting, a variety of areas for meetings, play, and chance encounters. A layer of creative elements will need to come in a later phase and/or through community partnerships.

Imagine…. so much!