The Arts in Lowell

An article in this morning’s Boston Globe (“Boston trails other cities in arts funding”) along with the blog post I wrote last night about the history of Lowell’s Brush Gallery got me thinking about the arts in Lowell. I define “arts” broadly. It includes painters and performers but also public spaces and buildings. For that reason, I was quite pleased that the city council on Tuesday night voted for City Manager Kevin Murphy’s proposal to spend $110,000 on LED lighting for the stretch of the Merrimack Canal that borders Lucy Larcom Park. The enthusiasm for the project conveyed by Murphy and the councilors was genuine and infectious. With the unveiling of the lights set for this year’s Winterfest (February 19 & 20, 2016), we won’t have long to wait to see what the excitement is all about.

Merrimack Canal and Lucy Larcom Park

Lowell’s canals and rivers are a great resource that be better utilized as a cultural resource. In nicer weather, there are few places anywhere more picturesque than Lower Locks, Swamp Locks, or Lucy Larcom Park, and a National Park boat ride on the Pawtucket Canal is an amazing experience. But there are some places that slip from our attention. I’m thinking especially of the Riverwalk and the Northern Canal Walkway which together run from Bridge Street to School Street. Then there’s the Western Canal Walkway which runs from Dutton and Fletcher Streets besides the American Textile History Museum, all the way to upper Merrimack Street. Both of those deserve more of our attention.

Are the canals and rivers part of the arts scene in Lowell? I think they are. For that reason, I see this initiative of lighting the Merrimack Canal to be a great step forward for the city. Artificial lighting has become an essential part of our everyday lives (and for more on how that happened, be sure to read Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light by Dracut’s Jane Brox), but “special” lighting can be very special. We need look no farther than the smokestack of the Wannalancit Mills and its holiday Christmas tree for proof of that. This canal lighting initiative will be very special.

3 Responses to The Arts in Lowell

  1. Brian says:

    The Riverwalk is the most underappreciated, somewhat unknown, place in the city. The portion of the walk where most people congregate is the general area behind the Tsongas center. It would be a shame to lose that spot to a UML practice hockey rink.

    When the walk eventually continues around to the Concord River, easily connecting Belvidere and South Lowell to the Merrimack, people will go there in droves. Perhaps the Notini site would be a better fit.

  2. Tom says:

    You know, I saw this article in my facebook feed and it excited me. I have long thought that if we could look at the canals as a resource and utilize them in some way, we could lead the way for old industrial cities in revitalization projects. Not to mention improve the face of our city. We have all the necessary parts to undertake such a challenge. UML, numerous entrepreneurs (EforAll), city wide organizations. Perhaps we could make our city “Green” or “Blue” (Hydro power) with working canals and waterfalls?

    At the very least we could turn them into attractions (as we have successfully with the National Parks). Maybe Something like the waterways of Venice? Cafes and other local artisans lining the canals, as tourist floated down the waterways…

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