Water-themed pedestrian green alley uses a drainage right-of-way to develop a beautiful, art-filled walk near UMass Lowell

Animals that come out when it rains

A new water-themed walkway in Lowell uses permeable concrete and plants to soak up stormwater, a project to combat flooding and protect the river from pollution. The path is home to new Rain Art animals, street art using a new technology of clear super-hydrophobic waterproofer to create invisible images that magically appear when wet. First used a couple of years ago in Seattle, the technique has just made the jump to the East Coast this summer, with MassPoetry also taking it up to hide poems on the Boston city sidewalks.

Though made with the toughest waterproofer available, they are temporary; they have lasted very well for the 2016 summer season.



I hid the animals here and there about the Decatur Way path to provide a treat for pedestrians who were there on rainy days, and underscore the theme of the project that water equals life, water can be used to enliven a cityscape. In between along the path are also flowers and water motifs, done in regular colored paint, scattered as visual punctuation and an element of delight as you walk down the route.


“Water, Art and You brighten formerly blighted Acre alley in Lowell”. Grant Welker (June 3, 2016), The Lowell Sun


“Transformed Decatur Way to Open as an Art Space in Lowell” (Press Release) Nancy Cicco (May 31, 2016), UMass Lowell.

Art blooms along the path

flower-decatur-way-500I’ve designed a set of signage welcoming visitors and explaining the project, and they’ve given me the ability to add art to the pavement, and a wall near the entrance! There will be more art contributed by the high school and other groups, and the whole thing is a great model of city departments, artists and neighborhood groups coming together to make things better.

My uniting idea, besides water and its relationship with Lowell of course, has been the growth and beauty they’re trying to add through letting the water help things grow there; and the bringing together of the neighborhood. I’ve taken flower designs from folk art/ art history of some of the main cultural groups that have contributed to the neighborhood’s character through the years, and woven them together into a flower garden theme.


Mural: Water and Work

Harriet Hanson Robinson, labor leader and women's suffrage organizer as a Lowell Mill Girl, from mural installation at Decatur Way, Lowell.I was given 16-foot wall near the entrance to tell the story of water and Lowell… Adding a human touch by highlighting an actual historical Lowell Mill Girl, Harriet Hanson Robinson. Working as a bobbin-changer at age 11, she began the second labor strike in the mills, seeking better working conditions, and later went on to found the National Woman Suffrage Association of Massachusetts. Heroes from history!

(More about Harriet Hanson Robinson: Wikipedia | New England Historical Society)


More about the mural here


The whole project was done under the auspices of the Lowell Regional Waste Water Utility, constructed and managed by CDM Smith engineers. I’m particularly impressed by the arbor at the main entrance, designed by Michael Dodson, which recalls the undulating shape of the old railroad bridge that spanned the river nearby.


Other art in the alley was contributed by local schools and artist groups, with support from many local businesses and organizations.