, Salem, MA

July 24, 2012

Art in the park

Interactive sculptures installed at Salem dog park

The Salem News

---- — Art has returned to Leslie’s Retreat Park in Salem.

Six pieces by Salem State University professor Ken Reker and his students are on display in the dog park off Commercial Street through July 30. Each piece, from a whimsical wind chime hanging in the gazebo to an artful bird’s nest tucked into a tree, is meant to be interactive.

So far, reaction has been positive and the interaction has been what it’s meant to be — making people think and participate, Reker said.

He and his students installed a similar exhibit of sculpture in the summer of 2010, but by the end of the two-week project, half of the art had either been stolen or destroyed by vandals.

This time, Reker has let the Police Department know about the artwork, and he’s posted fliers about the project throughout the park, hoping the park regulars will keep an extra eye out.

The display is the result of a weeklong intensive summer course that Reker teaches at SSU.

Reker and five students each created a piece out of found or recycled materials. The artwork is designed to withstand the elements for two weeks and to be kinetic, moving either by wind or human interaction.

In one of the pieces, refashioned bicycle parts dip into bins of bubble solution, sending bubbles floating on the wind.

Another student created a sculpture that functions as a sundial. At the center is a large dog bone made out of metal, with dog leashes spread out in the grass at its base, like spokes. The dog bone’s shadow rotates between the dog leashes as the sun passes.

“Public art gathers an audience that you might not usually anticipate,” said Reker, an associate professor in Salem State’s Art and Design Department. “It’s a difference audience than you get with the typical gallery-goers.”

The project is meant to expose passers-by to art, as well as to draw attention to a lesser-known but beautiful green space in the city, Reker said. Trees and benches line the park’s paved path, which runs along the North River Canal.

Art shouldn’t always require a wall plaque or a museum space, he added.

“A lot of people are put off by contemporary art. I tell my students artwork is made the same way it was 100 years ago — the artists’ response to the world around them,” Reker said.

“Public art makes an area more interesting ... and we hope to bring a little more attention to (Leslie’s Retreat), too.”

Bethany Bray can be reached at and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.


Outdoor sculpture installation at Leslie’s Retreat Park

Through July 30

Off Commercial Street, along the North River Canal

Participating artists: Salem State University students Brandy Brouillette, Casey Carroll, Alycia Dell’Orfano, Abbey Kulhavy, Sophout Nop and professor Ken Reker