Earlier this month, the Somerville Arts Council hosted the city’s first-ever AgriCultural Festival, a celebration of both the arts and farming and the idea that these seemingly separate fields (pun intended) actually go hand in hand.
“Farming is an artwork of its own right … just like how you balance colors on a palette, you also balance nutrients in the soil,” volunteer Vickie Choitz told us in September.
Unfortunately, the festival was postponed due to inclement conditions, and ultimately took place on a somewhat overcast, blustery afternoon. Attendance wasn’t as high as it might have been were we having some of the 75-degree late October days we’re enjoying now, which may have kept curious festival-goers away—and meant that people missed out on sculpture artist Hilary Scott‘s incredible Prospect Hill Tower “chicken gym.”
Scott jokes that Somerville’s artists are constantly faced with off-the-wall challenges, though he notes that “The Somerville Art Council poses some of the craftiest.” He’s collaborated with Greg Cook on unusual happenings like this year’s Tiny Tall Ships Festival in Union Square, for which he helped make huge, portable lagoons where kids could sail their newly made ships.
Scott spent his summer out in the Berkshires, where he’s the photographer for the Tanglewood Music Center. “[I] come back, poke my nose into City Hall Annex—where the dark lords of SAC have their headquarters—just to say, ‘Hi,” Scott recalls. “And they say, ‘Sit on down, Hilary, we have a problem you might be able to solve. You see, there is this festival, and there are going to be these chickens… and we were thinking…'”
“The rest is just Hilary Scott walking around and around that monument one rainy morning wondering at its utter strangeness—and then trying to figure out how to make a model that would stand up to the tender ministrations of fairly heavy birds with sharp-taloned feet,” he adds.
As construction on the bird-sized monument progressed, Scott realized he’d need trial chickens to test its strength, and he reached out to fellow artist, friend and chicken owner Ellien Laramee-Byers to “borrow” her four hens.
Laramee-Byers happily obliged, and the collaboration didn’t stop there; when she asked the Arts Council for an enclosure, they provided police barricades that the hens could have scooted out from under.
“To both compliment Hilary’s gorgeous monument and keep the hens contained,”Laramee-Byers explains, “I painted brightly colored houses on cardboard boxes to mimic our fair city and make his monument appear to be in the ‘Ville, rather than just hanging out in a bunch of barricades.”