Client: Cambridge Arts Council
Location: Cambridge, MA, United States
Completion date: 2011
Artwork budget: $50,000
Gilmore Landscape Architecture
Public Art Agent
Cambridge Arts Council
Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc
“Flocks” was the winner of an ideas competition for a Public Art Commission in Cambridge, MA. This public art project comprised of a temporary art installation and community outreach work celebrating human migration and the historic and contemporary socio-economic diversity of Cambridge. The installation was comprised of hand-made reflective, abstract, soft sculpture “birds,” suspended in (5) five 200-foot long nets along a one-mile Cambridge Street in Cambridge, MA. The community outreach work included the creation of maps, stories, birds, and art projects with over 500 local college and K-9 students, around the subject of human migration.
“Flocks” was funded through a Percent-for-Art program following streetscape improvements along Cambridge Street. The goals for this public art project included the creation of a piece with visual impact to tie the length of the one-mile corridor of East Cambridge, while bringing attention to the theme of migration –important to this diverse neighborhood-- through education and outreach.
The creation of “Flocks” required collaboration among many entities and individuals. The technical aspects of this lightweight, urban-scale artwork required the expertise of engineers and utility workers. Its hand-made nature required a large team of Boston Architectural College students. The educational outreach work, required collaboration with schoolteachers to help connect the artwork to the lives of the people in the community.
The design of the lightweight, aerodynamic birds were coordinated with the help of aerospace engineer, Jeremy Bain. Structural engineers (SGH) did calculations that aided in the design and installation into existing lampposts. Landscape Architect and Project Manager, Robert Gilmore, coordinated the logistics behind the installation of the artwork in collaboration with the crew from the Cambridge Electrical Department.
Educational activities were done with local public school art teachers, Kelly Mowers and Elisabeth Menges. These activities involved over 500 students from kindergarten to grade 9. Students created maps, decorated birds, stories, wings, photo-collages, and an installation of student-made birds, as part of the artwork focusing on the subject of human migration. These activities revealed the migratory histories of the students’ families, and connected the art installation to the community.
Inspired by both bird and human migrations, “Flocks” sought to create a memorable experience to celebrate the dream that fuels long and difficult migrations and the coming together of groups to create a new life. “Flocks” highlighted the ongoing process of migration to Cambridge. Over 25% or approximately 26,000 Cambridge residents are foreign-born. A recent survey shows that the families of Cambridge Public School students speak more than 60 different languages at home. With the art installation and educational outreach, “Flocks” celebrated the City’s diverse communities and their historic and contemporary migrations.