ALight on MARS: The Boston Sculptors Gallery Comes to Starfield

August 2021:  Since July, The Manship Artists Residency has been honoring some of its earliest “residents” — i.e., the fireflies — with a Year of Light. This celebration will continue through the Fall and into next year with special programming designed to draw attention to the magic and wonder of fireflies, as well as ways we can help their local populations flourish. As part of this effort, members of the Boston Sculptors Gallery have been invited to install site-specific work that uses light in some way on the Manship Artists Residency grounds. 

It was Paul Manship, the sculptor of the Prometheus Fountain, who first recognized the importance of the luminescent beetles with which he shared his summer residence and estate. In fact, he named his property Starfield in honor of the fireflies that were there when he arrived, and he made sure they had a habitat in which they could thrive. Manship waited until the end of July to mow his meadow so that the fireflies would have a chance to go through their life cycles and so that he would have the pleasure of walking through a field of fireflies twinkling all around him just like the stars above — he preserved for himself and his guests a veritable “Starfield.”

Although the nightly dance of the fireflies will have passed when the exhibition opens on September 25th, sixteen members of the Boston Sculptors Gallery will directly and/or indirectly remind us of their presence (and their absence) with their light-inspired work. In addition to work that closely relates to the fireflies and the radiance of their courtship dance, some of the site-specific sculptures reference the history of this environmentally significant site and/or our need to conserve resources and employ alternative energy solutions. For example, Jessica Strauss’s floating “Big Dipper” constellation in Canneys Quarry employs solar technology for its light source while reminding us how Paul Manship chose this spot because it was a “dark place” where he could revel in the nightly display in the sky above. This month-long exhibition was juried and curated by Belinda Rathbone and Cynthia Roth.

The exhibition organizers have created an outdoor sculpture path which the public can follow as they explore the grounds and discover the new work created specifically for this show. The resourceful and clever use of historic and natural features on the site by members of the Boston Sculptors Gallery will offer even those who are well-familiar with the property a unique and exciting experience. 

There will be an artist reception the second weekend of the exhibition, on Saturday, October 2, with a rain date the following Sunday. Complementary programming will expand on themes addressed by the sculpture itself –  there will be opportunities for night-sky viewings with the Gloucester Area Astronomy Club and the MIT Sidewalk Astronomers Club; a talk by entomologist Avalon Owens on the impact of artificial light on fireflies; a night of virtual and live dance — co-produced with New Media + Cyber artist Will Pappenheimer, Sarah Slifer Swift, and MAGMA; as well as a participatory, community-based public performance piece called Light in Flight developed by public artist Mags Harries. The latter event will be videotaped for broad distribution and will feature teams of bike riders from the neighborhoods of Gloucester and Rockport decked out in helmets decorated with light fixtures that mimic the flashing of the fireflies. 

The Manship Artists Residency’s firefly-related programming and events are supported by The Manship Artists’ Prometheus Circle of donors and with grants from Applied Materials and New England Biolabs Foundations, as well as by the Local Cultural Councils of Gloucester, Rockport, Hamilton-Wenham and Beverly; programs of and funded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council

About the Exhibition:

ALight on MARS – The Boston Sculptors Gallery at Starfield

OPEN WEEKENDS only with self-guided tours 

Saturday, September 25 – Sunday, October 24

Gloucester, MA 01930

Free admission with timed-entry ticket required

For more information and to reserve your spot, visit

ALight on MARS events:

  • Saturday, September 26 — The premier of two dance performance pieces – one virtual and one live — including Prism,  a performance piece for movement, sound, and light with dancers Sarah Slifer Swift and Molly Tupper; music by Steve Lacey and lighting design by Josh Lentini. New Media and Cyber Artist Will Pappenheimer presents his newest augmented reality piece which references Paul Manship’s sculpture and which he created with digital captures of dancer Sarah Slifer Swift. Rain Date: Sunday, September 27.
  • Saturday, October 2 — Opening reception with the Artists and the MIT Sidewalk Astronomers Club. Rain Date: Sunday, October 3.
  • Wednesday, October 13 — Dark-Night Sky Viewing with the Gloucester Area Astronomy Club
  • Saturday, October 16 — Light in Flight — A participatory, community-based public performance on light-decorated bicycles developed by public artist and Manship Artists Founding Board Member Mags Harries. Rain Date: Sunday, October 17.
  • Thursday, October 21 — Virtual Online Talk. Entomologist Avalon Owens shares her findings about the impact of artificial light on fireflies
  • Saturday, October 23 — Closing celebration. Rain Date: Sunday, October 24.

Reservations required through the website. Space is limited due to CoViD and parking. 

Manship maintains strict CoViD protocols. All visitors who are not vaccinated must wear a mask at all times. Those who are vaccinated must maintain social distance from others and are asked to wear masks to protect yourself and others. These standards are subject to change without notice. Manship follows the strictest COVID-19 guidelines set forth by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the CDC, and WHO and thanks you in advance for your following these safety measures.

About the Manship Artists Residency

The site of the Manship Artists Residency was once the summer retreat of Paul Manship, the sculptor of the Prometheus Fountain at Rockefeller Center. Many of the same opportunities and qualities that attracted Manship to Cape Ann are available to those who come here today seeking an escape into a restorative natural setting to spark their inner muse. The core mission of the Manship Artists Residency, an international, interdisciplinary artist residency, is to support our innovators and thinkers by offering them an inspiring environment in which to imagine and create the future.

Leaving a comment rewards the author of this post- add to the discussion here-

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s