ICA plans major expansion — across the harbor in East Boston

The Boston Globe | By Malcolm Gay
March 2, 2017

The Institute of Contemporary Art is planning a major expansion — across the harbor in East Boston, in a large dilapidated industrial space once occupied by a copper pipe shop.

The museum’s new waterfront satellite will be filled with immersive artworks, and admission will be free to the public — a rarity in the Boston area. And if all goes according to plan, visitors will be able to dash there by water taxi from the ICA’s home base in the Seaport.

The $10 million renovation project will give the ICA an additional 15,000 square feet, mostly unvarnished space for artists to create works on a seasonal basis.

The addition of the long and narrow building — currently condemned — will increase the museum’s overall exhibition space by more than 50 percent.

It is scheduled to open in the summer of 2018 in the Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina. Dubbed the “Watershed,” it will also house a small gallery dedicated to the history of the shipyard and a flexible gathering area with harbor views.

With East Boston booming, the Watershed museum space would join such public venues as KO Catering and Pies and the new Downeast Cider House in the shipyard area.

“There’s not a lot of raw industrial space for art in Boston,” said ICA director Jill Medvedow. “This offers opportunities for artists to work differently, and for audiences to engage differently. That’s something we’re really eager to explore.”

Medvedow said the space will initially be open only in the warmer months “when the harbor is easy to traverse,” with the possibility of eventually opening year round.

“It’s experimental,” Medvedow said. “We’ll be working with a handful of artists over time, one per season. . . . I’m so engaged in this idea of different artists responding to the same site.”

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