Land Trust mulls public art installation

Thu, 02/20/2020 - 6:15pm
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After getting the go-ahead from the Recreation Board, it was the Block Island Land Trust’s turn to take up the art installation project proposed for the tennis court fence at Ball O’Brien Park. The Land Trust has jurisdiction over what happens at the park, although the Historic District Commission and Town Council will also need to weigh in.

“They have lots of hoops to go through,” said Trustee Keith Lang.

The request came in the form of correspondence from resident Sue Black, who wrote that the project would be a collaboration between the eighth grade Roots and Wings program and fiber artist Naomi Lawrence. Roots and Wings is a two-part program that has been conducted for many years on Block Island. The first part is a retreat for the kids in a “secret place” on the island, where they explore their roots. Later the students visit New York City – a first-time trip for many of them, where they explore their wings.

The installation at Ball O’Brien will utilize yarn, but a quick perusal of the internet reveals that this project is not your normal yarn bombing. Lawrence, who hails from the United Kingdom and moved to New York in 2014, has crafted colorful art installations that adorn fences, mainly in Spanish Harlem, with arrays of butterflies, hearts, and flowers. In 2017, she and her husband purchased a home on Center Road on Block Island.

Presumably, the eighth-grade students will be learning to crochet, as that is the main craft, along with knitting, that Lawrence uses for her art. Black wrote that the content is “to be determined” and that the project would be “multigenerational.”

There was some discussion about the content and the likelihood of getting HDC approval.

“Art is a free speech issue,” said Land Trust Attorney Joe Priestley, who suggested that as a government entity, there could be a need to formulate some policies.

“I do have some experience with this,” said Kim Gaffett, who unsuccessfully pitched a public art installation for the Ocean View Foundation to the HDC a couple years ago.

For the Land Trust though, the main issue was just how long the installation would stay up and what would happen if the art became “degraded.” As a result, the trustees called for the installation to be removed by Columbus Day, “or sooner if it becomes an eye-sore.”

The Land Trust also wants an illicit dock to be removed from Fresh Pond. At their meeting on January 9, the trustees approved a request from the Peckham Farm Homeowners’ Association to have clearing and tree topping performed on a neighboring, conserved property (Plat 11, Lot 82). The motion approving the clearing included the caveat that the tree topping was to be a one-time event.

Chris Littlefield, of The Nature Conservancy said, at the time, that the trees to be topped had been identified. However, the trustees decided to go for a walk to check out the site. What they found was paths going directly from Peckham Farm down to Fresh Pond where there is a dock for which there is no other real access, although it can be seen from Lakeside Drive.

MacMullan said that the dock was not floating, but more “permanent” with pilings sunk into the pond, and cleats along the side where people could tie up their boats.

“It needs to be removed,” said MacMullan, adding that there were “Ten kayaks and canoes all over.”

Full support was given to the Block Island Conservancy’s proposal to install a trail that will connect the Martin property at the corner of Old Mill and West Side Roads to the Greenway trail system. It will be a “50-yard run” said BIC President Dorrie Napoleone, between the property and the dirt road that leads to the Dodge Cemetery.

Recent acquisitions by the Land Trust in the area may lead to more connections. On December 19 the Land Trust purchased a 1.5-acre lot (Plat 12/3, lot 29) for $310,000 in the area of “the horse shoe” south of Old Mill Road from Susan Greenberg where there are many other conserved properties, helping to fill in the area. Then on January 23, the Land Trust purchased a second, 1.96-acre lot (Plat 12/3 Lot 3) from Greenberg for $358,709, including a Land Trust fee, paid to themselves for $10,350. The lots are not contiguous, with the second one being directly off Old Mill Road.