By: Drew Daylor
“Rowing and art are so in balance,” Catherine Widgery, a Riverside member since late 2015, says about the harmony the sport has brought to her life.
Catherine creates and designs public art installations. For the last 30 years, Catherine’s work has been featured all over the country in front of hospitals, train stations and museums. Her work beautifully interacts with the natural environment – wind, light, water – and aims to “animate” the landscapes with which she works.
“I knew I was an artist from high school, grade school really,” Catherine says about the roots of her lifelong passion for art. Catherine majored in art at Yale and, upon graduation, started her own one-woman studio where she created her sculptures start to finish. She learned to weld and began to construct metal structures, some 25 feet high.
After college, Catherine moved to Montreal where she spent the next 20 years of her life. She got her first public art contract in 1981, with which she was finally able to enlist a crew to execute her creative vision. Most cities in the U.S. and Canada have laws in which public art contracts must be won through competitions. However, Catherine has now after 30 years begun to get private contracts without entering competitions.
So why public art? “I’m trying to transform environments so the experience of entering a place is enriched,” Catherine says of the impact of her work. “I’m transforming the experience in a way that changes how you think about your surroundings.” Catherine says one of the greatest rewards in her work is hearing the impact it has on people’s daily lives.
Although an artist since childhood, Catherine didn’t discover rowing until late in life. A few years ago she joined Gentle Giant’s community rowing program and immediately fell in love with the sport. And as with her art, she quickly developed a successful career in rowing. Catherine won the veteran’s single at the Head of the Charles in 2013, the first year she entered.
After that impressive victory she was invited to join the masters international rowing program, with whom she’s had an illustrious career. Last year Catherine collected a cool four golds at Master’s Nationals and another gold at the Master’s World Championships. “I must say I do take it very seriously,” Catherine says about her decorated rowing career.
Catherine has also picked up some prestigious hardware outside of the medals dock. In 2015 Catherine was awarded the best public art installations in the transportation and healthcare categories by the design community CODAworx.
Having only recently moved to Boston, Catherine says rowing at Riverside has been everything she hoped it would be. “There is a meditative quality of going out on the dock and being out on the river. It puts me into a very good state of mind for my creative work,” She says about her experience with Riverside. “Out there, you feel all is right in the world.”