Located in the Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina in East Boston, the ICA Watershed transforms a 15,000-square-foot, formerly condemned space into a new civic and cultural asset. Award-winning firm Anmahian Winton Architects designed the renovation of the derelict former copper pipe facility, conserving its industrial feel while restoring the building for new use.
The Watershed presents one exhibition each summer. Past projects include Diana Thater, a light and moving-image installation, in 2018; John Akomfrah: Purple, an immersive, six-channel video installation, in 2019; a monumental sculpture by Firelei Báez in 2021; and Revival: Materials and Monumental Forms, an exhibition of large-scale installations by six international artists who reclaim and reuse industrial and everyday materials, in 2022; and Guadalupe Maravilla: Mariposa Relampago, centered around a large-scale sculpture and healing vibrational instrument created from a repurposed school bus, the artist’s largest work to date, commissioned for the space.
During the pandemic, the Watershed was used as a food distribution site to address a direct need within the East Boston community. In partnership with community organizations in East Boston and the museum’s caterer, The Catered Affair, boxes of much-needed fresh produce and dairy were delivered to East Boston families weekly since spring of 2020.
The Watershed also houses an orientation gallery introducing visitors to the historic shipyard, a waterside gathering place with stunning harbor views, and a flexible space for exhibitions, programming, and workshops. Past offerings in this space include exhibitions of photography by ICA Teens such as A Community in Focus: East Boston, as well as participatory projects such as Aquí y Allá, a series of programs and activities on food, home, and community co-hosted by artist Evelyn Rydz and Eastie Farm’s Kannan Thiruvengadam in 2019, a project exploring the history of indigo by Stephen Hamilton in 2021, and a celebration of healing practices in East Boston in 2023.
The Watershed represents an exciting and creative mode of growth for the museum. With this project, the ICA has made a cross-harbor connection that is central to our vision of art, civic life, and urban vitality. It takes art beyond our walls, building upon a decade-long history of public art projects that bring together landscape, history, and contemporary art. The new facility is a central component of the ICA’s strategic plan, A Radical Welcome, designed to deepen the vibrant intersection of contemporary art and civic life in Boston.