Georges Island & the Isle Arts Initiative

There are 34 islands and parks that make up the Boston Harbor Island National and State Park.  They are in my humble opinion an often under-appreciated and at times misunderstood local gem and part of our national legacy.   Admittedly I might be a little biased.  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 I could take the ferry.   So, it seems only natural to me that with the arrival of summer also came a renewed interest in visiting the islands once again.

With some of the islands open to the public and a generous smattering of public arts programming planned throughout the summer which includes live music, exercise programs, public art displays, camping, historical talks and crafts designed for children’s education and enrichment, there is no shortage of reasons to visit.   The trick, of course, is getting there.

This trip, I decided to visit George’s Island.  With it’s old overgrown battlements and ghost stories to go with them, it was always a favourite excursion when I was little.  The question was, how do I get there?  If you don’t have a boat its definitely still possible.  There is a commercial ferry service provided by the Harbor Island Ferry, that 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.

While the ferry ride in itself was fantastic and convenient, planning the trip was the only frustrating part of my adventure.   The launches are easy enough to find but locating departure times and updated information regarding the departure times and information about the Isles Arts Initiative on the website, was a little more difficult than I anticipated.   My intention was go to and watch a performance of the Berklee Summer Concert series and check out some of the public art maybe I would even bring some food and have a picnic lunch and walk around for a while before I headed home.   I am sure with time all of these minor snafus will be worked out and ultimately I found all the information I needed about the performances/art and I called Boston Harbor Cruises and spoke to a woman who was very helpful, and cleared up my confusion regarding departures times.

The public art on display was part the public art wave that happened in Boston last summer.  This exhibit was a huge draw for me particularly because of the uniqueness of the location.   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.” Like all public art the work represented in the island wide public art gallery was immersive and probing in that it explored different aspects of island life, flora and fauna.  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.  It was a fantastic afternoon and while I am sad to think that the summer is now almost over and the wide blue skies and fresh cool 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.  So, now I can be excited for next summer when hopefully, I can visit more of the islands and also George’s Island once again.