DATMA to unveil three public art installations in New Bedford on June 22. Here’s where.
NEW BEDFORD — A giant doorway, an African baobab tree and a giant mural will be appearing in the downtown starting Thursday to celebrate the fifth anniversary of DATMA’s public art displays with “Shelter 2023.”
“We’re focused and hitting our stride featuring a wide range of entirely outdoor public art exhibitions that continue our theme of ‘Shelter,’” said Lindsay Mis, executive director of the Massachusetts Design Art and Technology Institute (DATMA).
Artists Mark Reigelman from New York City, Maxwell Emcays from Chicago, Silvia Lopez Chavez from Boston and numerous SouthCoast artists will be creating enormous pieces in the city that will not be missed.
In Custom House Square, “Threshold,” a 17-foot-high doorway that passersby can actually walk through, is inspired by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) who inhabited the city in the late 17th century as well as the aesthetic of New England’s archetypal Colonial doorways, according to sculptor Reigelman.
“I was so drawn to exploring the history of the city. I wanted to find a concept that accurately symbolized its openness to those seeking refuge, freedom or work,” he said.
Reigelman started by visiting archival sites, such as the Whaling Museum and the historical society in New Bedford. He said he discovered countless stories that highlighted this openness, which is why he chose the simple symbol of a door.
“This symbol is conceptually unique and strong, and it allowed me to explore architecture, scale and the past and future of New Bedford in an impactful and creative manner,” he said.
Reigleman hopes the piece encourages viewers to think about the past and future when crossing the threshold, and even for those who don’t, it’s meant to be a pleasant and positive experience nonetheless.
The gigantic sculpture seen from Union
As the winner of DATMA’s first national request for qualifications, mixed media multidisciplinary artist Emcays will present “Our Woven Story.”
Located on Route 18 and Union Street, the sculpture is inspired by the visual forms of the African Baobab tree and Wampanoag Wetu structures.
“I got a sense it is a tight-knit city rich in history that works together in order to sustain and protect its community,” he said. “I was interested in the ways people travel to new places and form communities and I was inspired by my similar ancestor history as well as the history I learned about New Bedford.”
Through the use of locally upcycled clothing as a primary material, textiles will embed the identity, economy and social fabric of New Bedford’s community into the artwork.
Emcays said it specifically focuses on the textile industry and the new immigrants who contributed to the city’s status of wealth at the time.
“My hope is that we are reminded that although we come from different backgrounds we are stronger when we come together,” he added.
A community mural visible from the bridge
Located on the exterior wall of NORPEL at 4 Fish Island, “Community Tides” will be a the semi-permanent mural that will measure 223 feet in length by 10 feet in height.
The mural will portray the New Bedford community, the fishing industry, its diverse economy, and depiction of life at the intersection of land and water.
“I quickly realized people spend a long time waiting in front of the wall for boats to cross the drawbridge,” she said. “So much of New Bedford’s economy revolves around the water and the fishing industry.”
Chavez said the imagery in her mural is ultimately about the families who pass along multi-generational knowledge to keep the city moving forward; it is about its beautiful, diverse people and communities.
“Not being from New Bedford, I relied on locals to share their stories and what matters to them,” she added.
Chavez collaborated with New Bedford High School students to create her signature colorful patterns pulled from the student’s local landscapes and everyday lives.
Utilizing acrylic paint, spray paint, and stencils to design various sizes of layered panels, New Bedford’s local youth will explore STEAM technology and design innovation to help contribute to the final design.
“I love working with young people, especially teens, as they are in this extraordinary time of their lives where they still have a child-like mindset to think creatively and can understand complex concepts and ideas,” she said.
“We held virtual and in-person meetings within a period of eight months to discuss what is valuable and essential to them and their community. We discussed how technology can aid the art-making process and how to move from concept to completion of the mural process.”
Celebrate with DATMA on June 22
Chavez said students were asked to document through photos patterns of their life in New Bedford, and to observe their surroundings through the lens of design, color, form and symbols.
Elements emerged from these photos that were then turned into drawings and vectors to create patterns and eventually laser cut the stencils utilized on the mural.
“At the core of my practice is a desire to bring joy, connection and agency to the places where my work lives,” she added.
“My goal with this mural was to create a portrait of New Bedford where people could see themselves. I hope the community of New Bedford feels seen and heard as they walk, bike or drive past the wall.”
DATMA will unveil the three art pieces during a presentation and celebration of five years in Custom House Square on Thursday, June 22, starting at 5 p.m.
“I’m proud of how far we’ve come in our first five years and look forward to many more,” Mis said.
Standard-Times staff writer Seth Chitwood can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on twitter:@ChitwoodReports. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.