Place Report: Somerville Bike Trail Sculpture Garden

Somerville Bike Trail Sculpture Garden

When District Hall closed for the holidays in late 2020, as a second Covid surge descended like a cloud on indoor places all over, I decided to take my placemaking research outside.

It will be safer there, I reasoned, and I could safely recommend a visit, if I found something worthwhile.

I started with a sculpture garden that had sprouted up alongside a nearby bike trail in Davis Square, Somerville.

I brought along an Osmo Pocket camera, on loan from Max Rottersman. The camera is made by DJI, better known for their drones. 

The marketing for the Osmo Pocket is very similar to what was marshaled, originally, for the GoPro: people windsurfing, ski jumping, skateboarding. Lots of skateboarding.

Here's one of many videos put out there by Osmo:

 

Osmo Pocket in Action

All I knew about this ragtag sculpture collection I had gleaned from riding past it on my bike. I assumed that it started with a few art pieces, and then slowly grew as locals started populating it with their own creations. No idea how long it's been there.

Here's where it's located:

Somerville Bike Path Sculpture Garden

Location of the Sculpture Garden

My visit was not well timed. I got a late start, around mid-afternoon on one of the shortest days of the year, shortly after a snowstorm. Not ideal, but there was light enough. And mostly I just wanted to see what was there, and if the camera worked at all. 

Also I wanted to see if an uncurated art place could ever possibly succeed -- without credentialed judges, professional arts managers, and public or private funds. 

Here's my quick sweep of the stretch. I slowed it down a little.

 

Somerville Bike Trail Sculpture Garden, slowed down a little

Overall: the space struck me as clever in junky, trash-picky way. I wanted to like it, but it was undeniably dank and shabby.

Worn-out automobile parts are a major medium here: sheet metal, mufflers, exhaust pipes. Also bicycle cranks, pop-culture detritus, and scrap lumber. Threadbare fabrics hang from tired tree limbs, floating on the breeze. One installation featured a mobile of old tin cans. Another sculpture featured hockey gloves and a baseball catcher's shin guards. 

Still, some highlights:

  • A half-dozen quirky birdhouses nestled in the branches of area trees.
  • A few large sculptures for kids: two giant giraffes and an elephant. 
  • A Duchamp-inspired half-bicycle/half-flower.

Towards the end of the video, you'll see what else is visible through the bare trees on both sides of the trail: the uptick in Somerville real-estate development. Many houses are sporting new backstairs and updated porches. 

A possible influence on my whole experience of the place: the fading light, the cold, and the snow. 

When it warms up, I'll make a return visit.