Two art installations set for ends of the town

By 
Chris Harding, Special to the Reporter
Oct. 14, 2010

Three-Decker sculptureThree-Decker sculptureIn the few weeks before the late October Dorchester Open Studios, two long-awaited pieces of permanent public art will finally be dedicated at opposite ends of town: “Dorchester Voices/Dorchester History” in Edward Everett Square and “Sleeping Moon” in Peabody Square. Together the pieces represent well over a third of a million dollars invested in the beautification and cultural enrichment of this neighborhood.

In 2007, Somerville sculptor Laura Baring-Gould installed her 11-and-a-half foot bronze version of Clapp’s Favorite Pear in Edward Everett Square with a $150,000 grant from the city’s Edward Ingersoll Browne Trust Fund.

Now three years later, she completes her design with a circle of smaller bronze pieces, averaging 36 inches in height (each on its own cast-iron pedestal), funded by a $60,000 community block grant. These smaller pieces were cast at the Asia Fine Art Foundry in Ayuthaya, Thailand, where the pear was cast.

Baring-Gould explained, “These ten bronze artworks and the accompanying interpretive signage symbolize the rich legacy of aspiration, activism and hope in the experience, voice and history of Dorchester’s people from the first inhabitants to the present.”

She emphasized that the themes for the satellite ten sculptures were “the result of six years of extensive communication with the community starting with an oral history project.”

The objects and the themes they represent are as follows: Cod and Alewife (the natural world); Maize, Squash & Beans -- “The Three Sisters”(sustenance); Small Boat/Ocean Waves (history, immigrants, arrivals, people who work on their behalf);Worn Shoes (Journeys, immigrants, (people who want to honor their migration); Military Dog Tags (those who serve their country); Books/Newspapers (strong civic leaders, voices of community, people who carry the torch); Baseball Mitt with Worn Ball (people who love the game, who play for the heart and joy of it); Rotary Telephone (people who have been there when needed); Birthday Cake and Memorial Peace Buttons (community groups/organizations which also serve and support the community); Three Decker (classic Dorchester).

John McColgan, chair of the Friends of Edward Everett Square, the group that initiated and helmed the project, observed, “Edward Everett Square’s history deserves celebration. We want it cast in bronze so it will never be lost again.”

The 1 p.m. dedication of Dorchester Voices/Dorchester History this Saturday, October 16, will feature speeches by local politicians and will be attended by representatives of over 60 Dorchester community groups.

Meanwhile, at the other end of town, another dedication is being planned, heralding “Sleeping Moon,” another $150,000 project that took even longer to see realized.

The five year process initiated in 2005 by local residents, led by Dorchester Arts Collaborative (DAC) and St. Marks Area Main Streets (SMAMS), was a joint endeavor with the Boston Art Commission, and was initially funded with a planning grant from the Browne Trust Fund.

Additional financial support came from Trinity Financial, New England Foundation for the Arts, and quite a few Dorchester neighbors, including several DAC members.

In 2005 the group, known as the Peabody Square Public Art Group, contracted UrbanArts to oversee selecting an artist to create permanent public art to be installed in the revitalized Ashmont Station Plaza.

A thoughtful two-year process, involving the review of 20 proposals and a community viewing period, resulted in the selection of “Sleeping Moon,” proposed by nationally renowned sculptor and resident of the Peabody Square neighborhood, Joseph Wheelwright. The commission offered a rare opportunity because the art would be an integral part of the major MBTA station renovation.

“The moon, the original timepiece, seemed a good companion to much-loved iron clock in Peabody Square,” Wheelwright explained. “‘Sleeping Moon’ floats’ close to the ground atop a 16-inch mirrored post, as if resting during the day, almost quivering in anticipation of ‘relaunching’ itself into the heavens at nightfall. Its light green patina surface with black and gold details is alive with craters, mountains, and rivers, inviting viewers to examine the details on all sides. I’m honored to have a major public sculpture in the Dorchester neighborhood my family has enjoyed for almost 30 years.”

Wheelwright availed himself of contemporary sculpting technology to create this 1200 pound piece. He used a scanner to scan his original avocado-sized moon and then directed a robot to carve foam to create an 8 foot version of his original. Then he covered the foam with plasticene and sculpted in all the craters and mountains.

Next James Montgomery, managing partner of New England Sculpture Service in Chelsea, created a rubber mold of the moon. At the Polich Tallix Fine Art Foundry in upper New York State, the biggest and best foundry in the Northeast, the statue was cast in 10 sections of 3/8 inch thick bronze, using the lost wax process.

Wheelwright then welded the pieces together and “chased” or ground down the surface so that all the seams would vanish. Finally, the moon was plunged into a chemical bath to give it a patina that will approximate the natural green patina that bronze develops over time.

Joyce Linehan, former DAC chair and a driving force behind the project said, “I am very proud of the inclusive process that got us to this moment, and grateful for the scores of neighbors who worked so diligently to get this done. And it warms my heart that we looked all over the region for an artist, and ended up engaging someone from the neighborhood.”

Dan Larner, Director of St. Mark’s Area Main Streets, also involved from the beginning, reflected, “It was a pleasure to work with all the groups and individuals including the many volunteers and funders who made ‘Sleeping Moon’ a reality. It has been a long process with a huge fundraising challenge, but the group never gave up. ‘Sleeping Moon’ is a testament to their commitment to our community.”

Wheelwright’s moon will be dedicated on Tuesday, October 26 at 4 p.m. The Boston City Singers, based at Peabody Square’s All Saints Church, have adapted a folk tune to sing at the dedication, simply using the words “Moon / train / church / clock.”