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October 9, 2013

No support for artist 'shanties' on the waterfront

NEWBURYPORT — An unofficial proposal to permit colorful artist “shanties” near the riverfront got poor reviews from the Waterfront Trust Monday night.

Board members responded with a black-and-white reaction: No.

The suggestion was brought up by Doug Locy, chairman of the five-member panel.

Locy said he was speaking as a resident, not a board member.

He said that putting four or five painted wooden sheds off Custom House Way would be a means to help artists display their work during the tourist season.

Custom House Way runs from the Custom House Maritime Museum to the river. It is lined with benches and shrubs but no structures.

The opaque wooden sheds would be about 8-by-8 feet, and perhaps 12 feet high.

Locy noted that the Waterfront Trust would have to get the compliance on the proposal from the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, which owns land to the west of the walkway, in order to place the temporary shanties.

But the measure never reached the point of reaching out to the NRA.

Veteran waterfront-watcher Bill Harris said that promoting commerce (sale of artwork) would be contrary to the mission of the Trust. Also, he said that the wooden shanties might block views of the river.

Member Josiah Morrill said the notion of helping artists had merit but not if it violated the regulations of the Trust.

Locy said that he, Chamber of Commerce President Ann Ormond and City Hall administrative assistant Lois Honegger had noticed the use of artists’ sheds near waterfronts in communities on Cape Cod.

He thought approving shanties would give the work of local artists more exposure.

But he did not push the suggestion when it became evident that there was no support for the idea.

Others Trust members at the session included Scott Sutherland and Joseph Brown.

Several members of the audience suggested that artists might make a deal with managers of the Oldies antique exchange, and sell their goods in its parking lot.

Also, it was reported that the Newburyport Art Association is planning to offer outdoor space in the future at the rear of the property it owns on Water Street.

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