East Boston public art fuses metalwork and community
In collaboration with Now + There, artist Rhea Vedro has begun a three-part public art project titled “Amulet” that starts with community workshops in East Boston and culminates in a series of bird-inspired steel sculptures installed at City Hall Plaza. Reaching heights of more than 16 feet, the sculptures will serve as guardians for the energy of the city.
In spring, Vedro hosted workshops with community partner Veronica Robles Cultural Center, where community members focused on a positive intention and then pounded what she refers to as “wishmarks” into steel plates with a hammer. Earlier this month, Vedro installed a workbench in LoPresti Park, where similar workshops will be held, allowing neighbors to experience the material experience of metalworking alongside the natural experience of land and sea in East Boston.
“I’m exploring the lineage of humankind’s relationship with metal, its alchemies, and material properties,” Vedro says. “The physicality of moving vision into form through metalsmithing can be a small embodied experience of affecting change on a material level — a metaphor for our agency to transform our realities.”
The wishmarks will be incorporated into the final birdlike rendition of “Amulet” at City Hall. Bird imagery is a frequent occurrence in Vedro’s metalsmithing and jewelry-making practice. She sees the animals as representations of migration, liberation and journeys between realms. The workbench will be active in LoPresti Park through August. In fall, the panels will be removed and fused into the larger artwork.
“With ‘Amulet,’ Rhea combines the delicate textures and coloration of hand-hammered metalwork with decades of community organizing to create a beacon of hope on East Boston’s waterfront,” says Kate Gilbert, executive director of Now + There.
Vedro is one of four artists participating in the Now + There Public Art Accelerator program, which encourages public artists to create work for neighborhoods all across Boston, increasing access to art. Artists receive a $25,000 stipend and a 10-month curriculum to assist them with curatorial, technical and financial details as they create temporary site-specific works. Applications for the next round of this program opened on July 17 and can be accessed through the Now + There website.
As always with Now + There projects, community inclusion and collaboration are crucial pieces of the artwork. When Vedro’s majestic birdlike sculptures are raised at City Hall Plaza, they will represent the work of many hands, the hammering and positive intentions of community members all over East Boston.
Gilbert says, “With support from the Accelerator, Rhea is demonstrating that great public art requires both a strong aesthetic and community engagement.”