Fruitful Resilience

2021

Chelsea, MA

Lead Artist, with a team of youth from La Colaborativa, Ruth Henry, and Eileen Riestra

Thanks to funding from the Chelsea Cultural Council’s Heritage Celebrations Grant and administrative

support from the Mystic River Watershed Association.

Island End River, Plan of the Lands of the Winnisimmet Co. and Others in Chelsea & Malden, 1846.
Artist Ruth Henry leads an opening circle with the artist team

The City of Chelsea, or Winnissimmet, is the traditional and ancestral homeland of Pawtucket, Wôpanâak (Wampanoag) and Massachusett people, as well as countless species of plants, animals that have been displaced. The Mystic River is a modified form of the Algonquin name “MissiTuk,” meaning “great tidal river” in reference to the tidal nature of this waterway. The lifeways of original inhabitants of this water and land and their descendants today have been systematically abused for the last 400 years. Respecting and connecting with the wisdom of the original inhabitants and stewards of our land is needed to remember and learn how to restore balance in our relationship with the land and more-than-human community.

Our team created a giant pineapple at the edge of the New England Produce Distribution Center in Island End Park to draw people into conversations of resilience. This area was once tidal marshland, and was filled in for development, and is vulnerable to flooding. The pineapple pointed people towards the climate resilience work of the City of Chelsea, Greenroots, Mystic River Watershed Association and other partners are doing to mitigate rising water and protect the New England Produce Distribution Center from flooding. I dumpstered onion bags from there and quilted them to make the surface of the Pineapple, and created the structure with reclaimed lumber. 

I worked with youth and collaborators to install the pineapple and to design and create a trail of stencil art and a poem leading people from the popular Mary O’Malley State Park to little known Island End Park. We exchanged stories of personal and community resilience, and translated it into visuals and poetry. The poem:

We are resilient because we are brave.

We share our stories and listen to each other’s stories.

We are resilient because we share what’s on our minds

and the battles we all go through.

We are resilient because we are human.

Because when life knocks us down,

we breathe deep

And keep living,

And growing

And learning.

We are resilient because we work better together.

The project culminated with a walking tour along the poetry and stencil walk from Mary O’Malley State Park to Island End Park with and a clean up immediately after of the tidal area with Greenroots Chelsea.

Somos resistentes porque salimos adelante.

We are resilient because we are fighting through it all to keep our families safe and healthy.

Youth working on their stencils

The Island End River was identified as a priority area in the City of Chelsea’s 2018 Municipal Vulnerability Plan.  As the City of Chelsea works to address coastal flooding through a redesign and improvement of the Island End River Park, the City is also focused on improving park accessibility and placemaking, enhancing the natural shoreline, and providing equitable waterfront access to its diverse communities, which have been among the hardest hit in the state by the Covid-19 pandemic. Fruitful Resilience is intended to lift up resilience efforts that have been spearheaded by the Cities of Chelsea and Everett, as well as nonprofit organizations Mystic River Watershed Association and GreenRoots. 

Slide from Island End Park Virtual Open House, hosted by Mystic River Watershed Association and Green Roots. Island End Park is the darker green area in this schematic. Visit Island End Park Resilient Design to learn more about the design process.

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