Georges Island & the Isle Arts Initiative

There are 34 islands and parks that make up the Boston Harbor Island National and State Park, which are in my humble opinion an under-appreciated and at times misunderstood local gem and part of our national legacy.   Growing up in the Boston area, I lucked out because I was able to visit the islands whenever I wanted, as long as I could get my hands on a boat,or when need be take the ferry.  So admittedly I might be a little biased.   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.

With some of the islands open to the public and a generous amount of natural beauty the Boston Harbor Islands were already a popular day trip for locals.   Now by expanding their offerings to include not just natural and historical points of interest but a selection of public arts programming and fitness events held throughout the summer, the Boston Harbor Islands are cutting a wider swath through Boston’s cultural landscape.   Their offerings this year include things like live music, yoga, public art installations, camping, historical talks, and crafts designed for the education and enrichment of everyone stopping by.   The bottom line is, there is no shortage of reasons to visit.

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 ferry ride in itself was fantastic, planning the trip was the only frustrating part of my adventure.   The launches are easy enough to find 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 runs from Long Warf in Boston, the Hingham Shipyard in Hingham (off of Route 3A), and Pemberton Point in Hull.   Depending on where you leave from, the ride takes between 15 – 40 minutes to get to Georges Island.

The public art on display was part the public art wave that happened in Boston in the  summer of 2015.  This public art exhibit was a huge draw for me particularly because of the uniqueness of the location but also because of the advertised uniqueness of the art.   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.