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"I love the school of sculpture that celebrates the historical aspects of the site or region.... I pursue a direct narrative; I tell visual stories and my art speaks to straight-forward structure. I love structural engineering and I show it all. All of my sculptures become stages for actors and all are methods of announcement."
George Geenamyer

 

George Greenamyer
East Cambridge Parking Facility

Title: East Cambridge - 1852
Date: 1988
Materials: Forged, welded and painted steel
Dimensions: 24' x 24' x 5'
Location: Second Street at the intersection of Thorndike Street; above Second Street pedestrian entrance

Seeing and experiencing

One of the pleasures of looking at art is to uncover clues. George Greenamyer offers a treasure trove of references to Cambridge's past in this sculpture. He provides a portrait of life in 1852, when East Cambridge was an industrial neighborhood full of factories and workers' cottages.

What clues can you uncover? What details about East Cambridge's past does this piece reveal? Part of the fun is to identify the cast of characters. What are the figures doing? What can we tell about them from their clothes and the things that they hold? Are some figures more important than others?

Architecture is prominent in Greenamyer's sculpture. Here, he represents Geldowsky's Furniture Company and Boston Porcelain and Glassworks, as well as houses and small businesses. Does this piece help you imagine what it was like to work in the factories?

Notice the relationship between the figures and the buildings. Why do you think Greenamyer uses scale (size relationships) in such a playful way?

Now look around. Has East Cambridge changed? Do the people look the same? What businesses do you see? Has the architecture changed?

The artist has said of his work, "I try to improve the site...I want to contribute to a feeling of calmness, so the work may stand aside and at the same time relate to the site and add a kind of humanity, humor and personal touch to the arena of human participation." Do you think Greenamyer achieved these qualities with East Cambridge -1852?

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Onsite

Walk around East Cambridge. Can you find any clues to the past: faded factory signs, workers' cottages, weathervanes -- anything that reminds us of old East Cambridge?

 

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Hand-on

Drawing
What you will need:
Paper (approximately 22" x 30"), cardboard, glue, scissors, drawing materials like pens, pencils, crayons, etc.

Cut a long strip off the paper. Fold it like an accordion. Cut two pieces of cardboard the same size as an end of your accordion. On these cardboard pieces, draw the outline of a cityscape or street scene. Then cut the cardboard along the outline of your scene. Open up the accordion and cut the pages inside so that they also resemble the outline of a city. Glue one end of the paper to one cardboard piece, then glue the other end to the other piece of cardboard.

You can display your creation as a sculpture or transform it into a book. Draw pictures, write a tour guide, pen a poem...celebrate your city!

Collage
What you will need:
Heavy-stock paper that your printer can handle, scissors, drawing materials.

When looking at Cambridge 1852, one is struck by its stage set quality. The stories are enacted by the piece's figures, which resemble paper dolls, a popular toy in the 19th Century.

Create your own miniature stage set and cast of paper doll characters. You can download the template for a backdrop based on Greenamyer's piece. You may also print out a template for paper dolls and clothing based on characters from the piece. Trim your set, the dolls and their fashions.

Write a play and act it out with your paper dolls.

Now make paper dolls of people you know in your community and create a backdrop based on your neighborhood. Write a play for these characters.

Do the characters from the two time periods share any similarities? What's different?

Drawing
Greenamyer's sculpture is about a moment in Cambridge's history. If you were going to create a similar piece about your community, what would you include? Think about the different businesses around you and the people who live on your street. What you would want someone in the future to know about your neighborhood?

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