“Public art” is art that people encounter as part of their everyday landscape. The Clipper City Rail Trail has a variety of figurative, abstract, and interactive sculptures, a mural along a highway underpass, custom signage, an “eco-arts” garden installation by the local Green Artists League, and a boardwalk, pedestrian bridge and other functional elements designed to be aesthetically pleasing. The trail and its public art were featured in the summer 2011 issue of the magazine "American Trails."
The trail and its public art were featured in the summer 2011 issue of the magazine "American Trails," and the winter 2013 issue of the “Rails to Trails” magazine.
See below for images of the various public art installations along the trail:
- The City commissioned a steel “Steam Loco” play sculpture with a cow catcher, coal car, bell and whistle by artists Scott Kessel and Matt Niland. Evocative of the real trains that used to run along the corridor based on historic photographs, it is a magnetic interactive destination for young children and their families.
- The City commissioned eleven stainless steel “Native Fish” by artist Bob Kimball to be mounted on a large granite block wall on the edge of the Rail Trail, including half a dozen foot-long herring, two three-foot tuna, a five-foot cod and striped bass, and a seven-foot bluefin tuna.
- The City commissioned local Newburyport muralist Robert Leanna to create a 40-foot mural of iconic and historic Newburyport buildings called “Newburyport Collage,” installed on ten panels along the abutment wall of the Route 1 highway underpass at the Merrimack River waterfront.
- The City purchased two large and beautiful abstract sculptures by Massachusetts artist Robert Lorenson; “Eclipse” is made of stainless steel and “Brushstrokes” is red powdercoated aluminum.
- The City commissioned Massachusetts artist Dale Rogers to create a scaled-up stainless steel abstract sculpture called “G-Swirl.”
- The City acquired a large aluminum and glass sculpture called “Torrential Flight” by artist Brian Russell.
- The City procured a steel interactive sculpture by Vermont artist James Irving called “Wishbone.”
- The City purchased a sculptural bronze bench called "Peace Offering" by Massachusetts artist Michael Alfano.
- The City directed Landscape Architect Ronald Headrick of Stantec, Inc. to design sculptural planters made of corten weathering steel. Located at the waterfront, the planters’ shapes are reminiscent of boats.
- Partially supported by the New England Foundation for the Arts, the City worked with the regional “Green Artists League” to create a unique garden installation called the “Alchemical Garden.” Located at the southern end of the trail, it will include “living sculptures” of a grass couch and a basket willow pavilion in addition to edible berries, fruits and nuts for trail users.
- The City acquired another sculpture made from bicycle parts and limestone by artist Simon LaRochelle called “Will He.”
- A stainless steel sculpture of a Great Blue Heron by Bob Kimball was commissioned for the Rail Trail, and is a memorial to John P. Soward (1940-2010). John lived for many years in the house on the other side of the wall where the sculpture is mounted. He was a talent watercolor artist, and the sculpture is based on his painting of the Great Blue Heron. Funding for the sculpture was provided entirely by John’s friends and family.
- A 14-foot high hand-crafted wood Archway anchors the southern end of the Rail Trail across from the MBTA commuter rail station. Made of white oak, the Arch was generously donated, designed, fabricated and installed by Mark Richey Woodworking which abuts the Rail Trail, along with adjacent general contractor Castagna Construction and Keiver-Willard Lumber.
- Five massive wedge-shaped granite blocks are arranged in a star-shaped pattern along the Rail Trail. These unusual blocks were fabricated in the 19th Century to help support the old railroad bridge embankment at the Merrimack River, and were salvaged by contractor S&R Construction Enterprises during construction of the Rail Trail. The adjacent business Enpro Services donated equipment and personnel to arrange the blocks in a compelling pattern.
The City purchased a horse sculpture called "Clyde" from artist Jamie Burnes. Originally displayed on the waterfront as part of the sculpture park, Clyde is made of corten weathering steel and black locust wood and was made specifically for Newburyport. (Donations from the following helped make the acquisition possible: the Coastal Trails Coalition, Dorothy and Howard Fairweather, Rich Batten, Dolores Person, Cyd Raschke, Shannon Sheltra, Tom and Nel Horth, Tom Kolterjahn, Carolyn Burt, the Doherty's, Tom and Eleanor Lyons, Allen Frost, and others.) (Photo by Jay Havighurst.)
The City asked Massachusetts artist Dale Rogers to make a 16-foot corten weathering steel sculpture of two "Sparrows" which now helps anchor the southern end of the trail.
Peter Caesar volunteered to design and install the "Berry Labyrinth," which features various berries and fruits arranged along the edge of the labyrinth for trail users to eat such as plump golden raspberries and sweet cherry tomatoes. (Photograph by Jay Havighurst.)
Peter Caesar volunteered to plant and maintain the lovely garden on the south side of the Washington Street gateway.
- Charles Nickou volunteered to plant and maintain the beautiful garden on the north side of Washington Street at the entry to Battis Grove.
- The Newburyport Horticultural Society has volunteered to create and maintain a garden underneath the Low Street Bridge.
Their generosity adds immensely to the beauty of the trail and the enjoyment of hundreds of people who see the gardens every day.