Three years ago, the East Boston Shipyard and Marina wasn’t much to look at. Despite having one of the least obstructed views of the harbor in the city, the gray, cement buildings and docks kept most tourists at bay.
No longer. This past weekend, artists, vendors and community members thronged to the waterfront for the HarborArts Festival, the best attended festival, organizers say, since the organization’s public art gallery’s grand opening three years ago. [Check out photos]
“The area has just come alive,” said Theresa Kim, 23, whose Oceanic Consciousness stall invited festival-goers to create their own nautical artwork to put on display. “It makes people feel like they can explore, and for post industrial cities, the most vibrant ones are always ones that invest and support their peoples’ art.”
The first festival in 2010 had fewer than 20 stalls. This weekend, more than 50 vendors lined the dock with stalls laden with handmade jewelry, paintings, and sculptures.
Festival-goers listened to live musical performances by local artists including Chris Kaz and the Frotations, Age of Soul, and DC Wonder. Several food trucks and vendors also set up along the dock, including Green Bean Mobile Café and Dough East Boston.
“This festival is about HarborArts as an art space and a platform for dialogue,” said Matthew Jules Pollock, 25, the main organizer of the event. “Our goal is to not only be an extremely unique creative space but also create an environment for activism.”
The first festival raised several hundred dollars. Last year, that rose to over $6,000. “We’re hoping to get up to $10,000 this year,” said Pollock. “It funds so much of what we do, and what Boston needs more of. [The city] doesn’t have enough of this grassroots arts movement.”
All of the proceeds raised from the $50 to $100 rates paid by vendors, along with private donations, go toward hosting temporary art galleries and installing new permanent sculptures along the harbor.
The East Boston Foundation also awarded a $5,000 Community Improvement Initiative grant to HarborArts, and will award it a second $5,000 if HarborArts is able to match it by the end of the year.
HarborArt’s gallery contains works from more than 30 artists representing three continents. The art is installed for public viewing along the harbor. The environmentally-themed gallery was created to raise awareness of the global depletion of water resources and to educate the community on sustainability.
For Jordan David Hoffman, 32, whose stall displayed his own handmade tea products, says the gallery has transformed the previously bleak area. “The art is what draws me here,” he said. “I found it to be so reassuring because normally these places are so cold and industrial.”
“Cities are starting to look forward and allow art into the city,” said Dan Battat, 24, a glass blower from Holyoke. “It’s art rising out of industry, and I’m all about that.”
This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.