As The Port endures project against floods, it benefits from art projects known as Flow

Flooding on Bishop Allen Drive in The Port neighborhood in 2010. (Photo: Department of Public Works)

Eleven art projects grouped under the name “Flow” should start trickling through The Port neighborhood soon, named in part for their funding source: a multiyear flood control project.

The project, described as costing between $35 million and $50 million over the next five to seven years, sent $300,000 to The Port through the Cambridge Arts agency and the city’s Percent-for-Art program, which turns 1 percent of certain construction costs into site-specific public art.

Port residents and visitors can look for venting laundry steam transformed into magical clouds of color, hip-hop and modern dancers performing on outdoor basketball courts, murals, mosaics, gardens and more, said Lillian Hsu, director of public art and exhibitions for the Cambridge Arts agency.

Going with Flow

Cambridge Arts got 70 proposals and narrowed that with community members to 11 winners, with an improvisational storytelling project called Playback Theatre expected to be among the first to emerge and leading to more as the weather warms in the spring and summer, Hsu said. Some projects won’t be seen until 2019, and some might change along the way from their initial approved form, based on official approval and dialogue with the community.

“Some of the Flow projects are being funded only to get a program off the ground,” with funding granted in part with the belief the project could be carried on by the community, Hsu said, using the “We Flow Together” playback theater improv concept as an example. Cambridge Arts will fund it for two years to show how it works. “After the Flow funding period, the skills can continue to be shared and passed on.”

“Future funding will be easier to secure once the playback theater company has demonstrated success,” she said.

While contracts are still being set with artists and there’s no overall schedule set, “we know a few things,” Hsu said. Spring will see the planting of a garden at the Moses Center and a community introduction to Flow; summer brings artist Larissa Belcic’s dryer vent installation; a mural on Windsor Street will be revealed June 15.

Each piece has some connection with the theme as described by Cambridge Arts:

The program title “Flow” is meant to evoke the flood control project as well as the flow of time, the term for being in a positive psychological state (“in the flow”), and the area’s historical connection with the Charles River, whose tides reached into the neighborhood until construction of the Charles River Dam a century ago.

A dozen projects

The Port neighborhood has long been prone to flooding, and the problem is expected only to worsen with the effects of climate change, according to the city’s Department of Public Works. Key among the water, sewer, drainage, street and sidewalk improvements in the flood control project it has underway is the installation of two massive stormwater tanks under Parking Lot 6 on Bishop Allen Drive and Clement Morgan Park on Columbia Street.

“The area will still be vulnerable to flooding during less-frequent, larger storms,” according to department literature. Projections show flooding throughout the neighborhood for intense and long-lasting “25-year storms,” though the work will minimize flooding during less-intense “10-year storms” – ones with a 10 percent chance of happening in any year, making the average time between them around 10 years – and keep the problem contained largely to School Street and a part of Cherry Street.

Here are the projects Port residents can look forward to during and after flood control construction.

“A Nocturnal Harmony: The Steam Vent and the Traffic Light” by Larissa Belcic

Each night at the George Close Building at 243 Broadway, steam from its laundry room flows over the sidewalk, becoming subtly lit by a nearby traffic light. Belcic plans to use sensors and LED lighting to highlight and intensify this prototypically urban moment for three to four months starting this spring. Grant awarded: $820

“Welcome to the Port!” by Andrew Schill

Port artist Andrew Schill will work with students at the Community Art Center over the course of a year to create a mural expected to last 15 years. The students will take photographs around the neighborhood and select imagery to use in the mural design, be trained in spray paint techniques and beautify the neighborhood. Grant awarded: $5,500

The Integration Project, by Anna Myer and Dancers

Modern dance and hip-hop will combine for two performances within a year exploring the city’s cultural and racial diversity. The first, “Invisible,” adds poets to the mix to examine race issues during a performance on the basketball court at Sennott Park. The second, “Flow,” will be an hourlong performance exploring the many cultures that make up The Port, to be performed on the court at Clement Morgan Park. Grant awarded: $15,000

Critical Breakdown Performance & Workshop Series, by Stanley Dominique and Critical Breakdown

Visiting adult and youth artists will offer neighborhood youth chances to take part in poetry, dance and music at two years of quarterly performances and monthly skill-share workshops. Grant awarded: $18,000

We Flow Together: The Port Playback Co., run by Will Chalmus

In playback theater, audience members share true stories and a team of improv actors and musicians enact the stories on the spot. We Flow Together: The Port Playback Co. will partner with Art and Soul Studio, 91 Hampshire St., and other Port organizations, to train community members in techniques and tools for sustaining the theater company after two years of Flow funding. Grant awarded: $18,000

MathScapes + Little Steps, Big Journeys, run by Omo Moses and Math Talk

Life-size animal footprints (lasting six months to a year) are affixed throughout the neighborhood to invite children to run and leap like animals to begin to learn math concepts such as measurement and pattern recognition. Also, an illustrated book for young children will be published featuring families from The Port to inspire and serve as a resource supporting learning and language development. Grant awarded: $25,000

Port Neighborhood Mosaics, by David Fichter

Port artist David Fichter will lead members of the community in creating exterior glass tile mosaics – expected to take a year and last between two and three decades – on The Elderly and Congregate Housing, 116 Norfolk St., and at a second location to be determined. Grant awarded: $29,000

The Loop Lab sound studio, run by Moise Michel and Christopher Hope with Cambridge Community Television

The Loop Lab will be a permanent, free sound production studio, podcast station and creative safe space set up over a year where people ages 18 to 25 can share stories, music and news from the community and get training in life skills, wellness and emergency preparedness alongside skills useful for careers in music, sound recording and podcast production. Grant awarded: $30,000

Home Port Ground Mural, by the Community Art Center

The Home Port Ground Mural will be created over the course of two years outside the Community Art Center on Windsor Street, between School and Washington streets, to be repainted and retouched annually at a block party. Grant awarded: $36,500

Cambridge Youth Steel Orchestra and Steel Pan Festival run by Cambridge Carnival International

A new Cambridge Youth Steel Orchestra (with older youth teach younger students) will perform around the city, using some homemade instruments. An annual Cambridge Panorama Steel Pan Festival will be funded for three years, with the program expected to run independently afterward. Grant awarded: $40,000

Urban Agriculture and Sculpture Hub, by the Green City Growers with artist Mark Cooper and The Moses Youth Center

Flow is funding four years of garden training and programming for teens, including design, installation and maintenance of gardens that will provide fresh produce to The Port for an expected 15 years. Grant awarded: $75,000

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