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Floating sheep artwork hits Fort Point Channel

“Who Wears Wool" by artist Hilary Zelson, in Boston Harbor.Keith Bedford/Globe Staff

Not Baaa-d, Fort Point Channel. Not baaa-d at all.

A new art display now floating in the murky Boston Harbor waters between the Congress and Summer street bridges will be hard for anyone to miss: it features two large sheep built entirely from foam and packing peanuts.

The installation, called "Who Wears Wool," was created by artist Hilary Zelson, and pays homage to the Fort Point area's former wool trade. It consists of the two sheep resting atop a 12-foot-by-12-foot artificial turf-covered floating dock.

The larger sheep is 10 feet tall and 14 feet long. The smaller sheep stands 5 feet tall.


"Hilary's project is fantastic," said Emily O'Neil, executive director of the Fort Point Arts Community, or FPAC, the non-profit that commissioned the work. "It's large-scale, yet has tremendous detail."

Earlier this year, FPAC put out a request for proposals seeking an artist who could weave together a prominent display connecting the neighborhood's arts community with residents and visitors. After receiving a pile of entries, Zelson's project was picked the winner by a panel of judges.

The project is funded by the Friends of Fort Point Channel and the Fort Point Operations Board.

For the project, Zelson said she layered EPS foam — or expanded polystyrene — to create the bodies of the sheep. The layers are held together with a spray adhesive, and the sheep are bolted to the dock with an armature of steel rods.

Once built, the sheep were covered in packing peanuts to create the look of wool, before the entire thing was covered with a white acrylic latex coating, according to Zelson.

After the sheep were fastened to the float, they were towed out to the middle of the span of water between the bridges by the Boston Rowing Center Tuesday.

The sheep were originally going to be multi-colored, but Zelson changed her mind as the installation came together, instead sticking with a traditional look.


"I felt it had a lot of life on its own without the colors," she said. "I thought the colors would detract from the intricacies of the [packing] peanuts."

Zelson started working on the project in August. The first six weeks alone were dedicated to planning, she said.

"Once I was able to get the foam to my studio, I was working seven days a week," she said. "It was probably a 300-hour project."

When applying the packing peanuts onto the sheep, she had to do it piece-by-piece, a process that took up much of her time. The project — from the 3D renderings to the welding to the stacking of foam — was documented on Zelson's Instagram account.

Heavy workload aside, Zelson said she is happy with the outcome of the project.

"I might change a few things if I were to do it again, but overall it was really fun," she said.

Zelson said that she hopes as people come across the sheep, which will remain floating in the water for the next six weeks, they will pause momentarily, and think about its meaning.

"I hope they just think back a little bit, or stop and pause, and take in the city in a new way," she said. "Boston is having this whole public art and art rejuvenation, so I just wanted to add to that conversation ... Even if they look at it and it brings a smile to their face, I'm happy."


Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.