Lady Of Salem (Salem, MA)

Date Of Visit: October 29, 2016

Location: Essex St, Salem MA

Hours: Most are available daily 24 hours a day

Cost: Free

Parking: Parking is available at the New Liberty St and Congress St parking garages as well as additional lots in the city

Dog Friendly: Yes

Handicap Accessible:  Yes, most Lady Of Salem figureheads are handicap accessible.

Highlights: brilliant works of art displayed mostly along or near Essex St

Web Sites: Lady Of Salem Facebook Page

Lady Of Salem

Although Salem is known for the witch hysteria of 1692 and the commercialism that is largely based on this tragic part of their history, Salem has so much more.  It really is a shame that is what people focus on.  In fact with such programs as  Creative Salem and the Salem Beautification Committee – who created this art program, Salem has seen a resurgence of the arts and entertainment that has always been a part of the city.

One of the exhibits recently in Salem is the Lady Of Salem figureheads located throughout the city.  The nautical inspired art is meant to celebrate Salem’s rich maritime history.  These figureheads are meant to closely resemble the decorated ornaments that used to be attached the front of ships.

While some artists have created more than one figureheads, they were mostly created by different artists.

Unfortunately, not all of the figureheads are on Essex St (the last in the group of photos below is on Derby St and one is inside the Salem Old Town Hall) and some have been either vandalized or removed for some other reason.  Also, many of the figureheads almost seem hidden and very hard to find without the help of the map, and, even then, I still had a hard time finding them all.  Add in the massive crowds this weekend and it made it very difficult to find them all.  In fact, I only found about half of them.  It does seem like a fun activity to do with your family.

The Lady Of Salem art display began in June of 2013 and they are brought out periodically.  This past year it was on display frpm Juen until October.  The figureheads are beautifully crafted and, if you look at them closely enough, you can imagine seeing them on the front of a ship, bobbing up and down.

Salem is an old city and some of the streets are cobble stone or not in the best condition.  While Essex St is pedestrian friendly, some of the sidewalks in the city, such as Derby St where one of the figureheads is located, can be hard to navigaate.

Figureheads on ships have an interesting background.  Figureheads on ships were all different in design and name, but they do have many similarities, particularly in their significance.  Figureheads were said to embody the spirit of their ship.  They were believed to placate the gods of the sea and ensure a safe voyage.  Almost every prow had a carved figurehead on them.  The figureheads replaced heads of animals and, at times, people that used to be placed at the front of ships in the hopes of looking out ahead for the ship’ss safety.  Eventually, eyes were painted on the ships and then figureheads became the standard decorative piece.  It was the best choice by far.

The figureheads vary in some respects.  While they are all shapely females (it must be lonely off at sea), some are scarier than others while others seem more wholesome.  There’s even a KISS-like figurehead (you’ll get this when you see them below).  All of the figureheads were either sponsored by or loacted near local businesses which would explain why some figureheads have some unusual artwork on them, such as the phrase “I heart pizza.”  I am not sure sea-faring people of that day even knew pizza was a thing.

The figureheads are not scheduled to be on display any longer (although I haven’t been there to confirm this).  But, I am sure they will most likely be on display again in the future.  They were, for a limited time, on display in the Peabody Essex Museum in Sale, MA (also on Essex St).  The link at the top of the post has photos of all of the figureheads.

The figureheads below were all displayed on Essext St. during my visit.

Artist: Nick Papadimitriou.

Artist: Jean Pare

Artist: Alicia Irick Cohen

Artists: Mr. Bleckley’s 5th grade art students (Bates Elementary School, Salem MA)


Artist: Vonne Bittercup

Artist: Shalimar

Artist: John Devine

Artist: Kenneth Glover

Artist: Dori Phillips

Artist: Maryellen Halliwell

Artist: YMCA/Girls Today Program

Artist: Cynthia Mikula Smiszek

Artists: Karen Lamesa and Tina Armstrong

Artist: Sheila Billings

Artist: Keri May Killam

Artist: Jill Pabich

Artist: Sheila Farrens Billings

Artist: Mary-Ellen Smiley

Artist: Jeanne Pare-Kapnis


About New England Nomad

Hi I'm Wayne. Welcome to my blog. I am a true New Englander through and through. I love everything about New England. I especially love discovering new places in New England and sharing my experiences with everyone. I tend to focus on the more unique and lesser known places and things in New England on my blog. Oh yeah, and I love dogs. I always try to include at least one dog in each of my blog posts. I discovered my love of photography a couple of years ago. I know, I got a late start. Now, I photograph anything that seems out of the ordinary, interesting, beautiful and/or unique. And I have noticed how every person, place or thing I photograph has a story behind it or him or her. I don't just photograph things or people or animals. I try to get their background, history or as much information as possible to give the subject more context and meaning. It's interesting how one simple photograph can evoke so much. I am currently using a Nikon D3200 "beginner's camera." Even though there are better cameras on the market, and I will upgrade some time, I love how it functions (usually) and it has served me well. The great thing about my blog is you don't have to be from New England, or even like New England to like my blog (although I've never met anyone who doesn't). All you have to like is to see and read about new or interesting places and things. Hopefully, you'll join me on my many adventures in New England! View all posts by New England Nomad

12 responses to “Lady Of Salem (Salem, MA)

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