The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) opened its new Watershed to the public on July 4, expanding artistic and educational programming on both sides of Boston Harbor—the Seaport and East Boston—and connecting two historically isolated neighborhoods. Admission to the Watershed will be free. Access to the Watershed is available by boat, public transportation, and taxi service. The museum is contracting ferries through Boston Harbor Cruises for the six-minute boat ride from the ICA to the Watershed, which will be free to ICA members, included with regular museum admission, and free to visitors age 17 and under.
“The ICA is committed to ensuring that art and artists’ voices are central to civic life,” said Jill Medvedow, Ellen Matilda Poss Director of the ICA. “Our new Watershed will create immersive encounters with the art and issues of our time, be a center for social experiences and community-based education, and catalyze explorations of the environment, equity, and social justice. We are honored to become part of the cultural and natural landscape of East Boston.”
Located in a former copper pipe and sheet metal facility in the Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina, a working shipyard in East Boston, the Watershed will be a raw, industrial space for art unique in Boston. Award-winning firm Anmahian Winton Architects (AW) is designing the renovation of the 15,000 square foot facility and restoring the formerly condemned building for new use. The Watershed will comprise an orientation gallery that will introduce visitors to the historic East Boston shipyard; an expansive, open area for artist projects; a flexible space for gathering, teen programs, and education projects; and a small outdoor patio with waterfront views back to the ICA. The Watershed will be open July 4 through October 8 in its inaugural year. Next year and moving forward, it will open to the public seasonally, from late May to early October.
The ICA is partnering with the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, East Boston Social Centers, Maverick Landing Community Services, and Zumix to develop programming for their communities at both the ICA and the Watershed.
The Watershed builds upon the extraordinary momentum achieved by the museum since opening its visionary waterfront building, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, in 2006. The ICA has been a catalyst in expanding audiences for contemporary art through groundbreaking exhibitions and performances, and innovative programs—increasing its attendance tenfold and welcoming over 2.5 million visitors to the museum since 2006. A museum at the intersection of contemporary art and civic life, the ICA has advanced a bold vision for amplifying the artist’s voice and augmenting art’s role as educator, incubator, and convener for social engagement.
Inaugural Exhibition at the ICA Watershed
July 4–October 8
Diana Thater (b. 1962, San Francisco) has been a pioneering voice in video installation art since the early 1990s. In the first major presentation of her work in Boston, Thater will create a site-responsive installation for the inaugural exhibition at the ICA Watershed. Thater’s installation will reflect on the fragility of the natural world, transforming the space through light and moving image projections. The exhibition will center on Thater’s artwork Delphine, reconfigured in response to the Watershed’s coastal location. In this monumental work, underwater film and video footage of swimming dolphins spills across the floor, ceiling, and walls, creating an immersive underwater environment. As viewers interact with Delphine, they become performers within the artwork, their own silhouettes moving and spinning alongside the dolphins.
“Diana Thater’s strategies of intensified color and visually stunning moving images will offer visitors an extraordinary introduction to the Watershed and raise urgent questions about the impact of human intervention on the environment,” said Medvedow.
In addition to Delphine, the Watershed will feature Thater’s recent sculptural video installations, A Runaway World and As Radical as Reality, produced in Kenya in 2016 and 2017. Conceived as both portraits and landscapes, these works focus on the lives and worlds of two species on the verge of extinction—rhinos and elephants—and the illicit economies that threaten their survival.
Thater’s projected video installations will be punctuated by representative examples of her work with video walls including Untitled Videowall (Butterflies), a work that sits on the floor, screens facing up inviting visitors to circumnavigate an assemblage of vibrant orange monarch butterfly wings.