Department Chair

Andrew D. Nicholls, Ph.D., Chair and Professor of History

Date of Award


Access Control

Open Access

Degree Name

Museum Studies, M.A.


History and Social Studies Education Department


Cynthia Conides, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History and Museum Studies

First Reader

Nancy Weekly, M.A., Head of Collections & Charles Cary Rumsey Curator at Burchfield Penney Art Center

Second Reader

Cynthia Conides, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History and Museum Studies


This thesis documents the creation of an urban beach on the banks of the Erie Canal in Lockport, New York and the effect it had as both public art and placemaking on a community's identity and development. The “Rivi-Erie” was a project that had the potential to impact the city by reimagining and reinventing a valuable, yet previously underutilized parcel of land.

The concept of changing a public space into a faux urban beach is not new. Beaches with no attendant swimmable water became popular about fifteen years ago in Paris when a newly elected Socialist Mayor sought to address the economic inequality among his constituents by creating the “Plage-Paris” ("Paris Beach"). While Parisians are generally known to escape the heat of the city in August, many are not so fortunate. As a way to fulfill a campaign promise to "Give Paris back to Parisians,” the mayor ordered a roadway adjacent to the Seine River closed. Tons of sand were deposited, umbrellas and beach chairs were installed, and a city beach was born. Since that time, the Plage has become a summer staple of Paris with many locations added. The Paris beaches were explicitly designed to create social change and were part of the mayor's political agenda.

Paris, France and Lockport, New York have little in common; but in the summer of 2017, an urban beach oasis was added to the Erie Canal as an homage to the summer plages placed along the Seine River.

The steps to transform the dream into a reality included making grant applications, seeking permissions, obtaining insurance, sourcing material and services, creating programming, designing and printing signage, and developing marketing. Ironically, the word for dream in French is “reverie.”

While at first blush, a non-swimmable beach may appear to be a folly, the Rivi-Erie engaged its users and encouraged diverse social interaction. The project also became an incubator for other public programs and demonstrated that a small public art project and placemaking experiment can positively affect a city of 20,000.