Growing up in the Boston area I got lucky because I was able to visit the Boston Harbor Islands whenever I wanted as long as I could get my hands on a boat, or when need be take the ferry. So it seems only natural that with the arrival of summer and the temperatures ramping up also comes a renewed interest in being on the water and visiting the islands.
There are 34 islands and parks that make up the Boston Harbor Island National and State Park, which are in my humble opinion an often under-appreciated and at times misunderstood local gem and part of our national legacy. With some of the islands open to the public and a generous amount of natural beauty the Boston Harbor Islands are a popular day trip for locals. By expanding their offerings to include not just natural and historical points of interest but also a selection of public arts programming, historical and fitness events held throughout the summer, the Boston Harbor Islands are cutting a wider swath through Boston’s cultural landscape.
This trip, I decided to visit George’s Island. My idea was go to and watch a performance of the Berklee Summer Concert series, check out some of the public art, have lunch and walk around the ruins for a while before I headed home. With it’s old overgrown battlements and ghost stories to go with them, it was always a favourite excursion when I was little and I thought it was time to revisit. Since I don’t have a boat I planned to take a commercial ferry provided by the Harbor Island Ferry.
The trick, of course, is getting there. While the the Harbor Island Ferry ride in itself was fantastic, planning the trip was the only frustrating part of my adventure. The launches are easy enough to find (There is one in Pemberton Point, Hull, The Hingham Shipyard, and Long Warf, Boston) but locating departure times and updated ticket information, as well as information about the Isles Arts Initiative on the various websites I was directed and then redirected too, was a little more difficult than I anticipated. Ultimately I had to call the ferry office a few times and the woman helped me find all the information I needed about the performances/art and ferries, and clarified that that the ferry costs 17.00 (round trip) and depending on where you leave from it takes between 15 – 40 minutes to get to Georges Island.
The public art on display was a huge draw for me particularly because of the uniqueness of the location and the overarching theme of the art installed. According to the website,”The Isles Arts Initiative is a summer long public art series on Georges and Spectacle islands and the Boston Sculptors Gallery, in Boston, that will capture the intrinsic beauty of the 34 harbor islands.” The work represented in the island wide art gallery was immersive and probing in that it explored different aspects of island life, flora and fauna but in a way that highlighted the sharp, but not necessarily divergent contrast, between our local history and our vision for the city moving forward. Open to interpretation and interaction the series encouraged visitors to get off the beaten path and explore topics like climate change, while experiencing the beauty and history of George’s Island first hand. The main event installations are happening (or happened) on Spectacle Island, with “Seen/Unseen” from July 11 – August 22, and “Cove” on Georges Island from July 11 – August 26. Along with art there is also music in the form of a summer long Berklee Summer Concert Series, on both Georges and Spectacle Islands featuring different types of music presented by students, and groups from Berklee College of Music.
George’s Island was in many ways exactly as I remember it, but it was also much changed since I was little. The fortress is now accompanied by modern installations like, a visitors center, restrooms, a small play ground and a bustling coffee shop where you can buy lunch during your visit. While I had a few small frustrations getting there I am sure with time all of these minor snafus will be worked out. All in all it was a fantastic afternoon, and while I am sad to think that the summer is now almost over and the cool fresh breeze off the ocean will soon be replaced with the cold winds of winter I am heartened to have been to visit George’s Island once again.