Dedication of the BMAC Sculpture Garden

This Saturday will mark the dedication of Brattleboro Museum and Art Center’s new Sculpture Garden. Since I’m in Scandinavia and unable to attend, I’ve written a few words to be read at the ceremony. My thanks to museum board chairman, Bruce Berg, for reading. All best wishes on the day to those attending.

Dedication of the BMAC Sculpture Garden, August 6, 2011

Maybe because, topographically speaking, this area is Brattleboro’s lowest point, it’s where, for me, many memories have settled over the years. Within ear-shot of here, on Arch Street, Linotype machines once clattered away in the press room of the Daily Reformer. That’s where my father swept floors after school during the Great Depression. And it’s where I went after school in the mid 60’s to fill my canvas newspaper sack with fifty copies of the latest edition before heading out on my delivery route.

Within sight of here, my dad walked across the bridge to Island Park, where on weekends he watched baseball games from the covered grandstands. I spent a few Saturday mornings as a kid hanging a pole over the rail of the bridge trying to catch carp. One of my friends, fishing by himself, hooked one so big he couldn’t pull it up to the rail and had to yell for help. An adult on Main Street heard his cries and came to the rescue. The two of them were able to haul the huge bottom-feeder up onto the bridge deck. My schoolmate tied the fish behind his bicycle and dragged it around town, showing it off. Of course, it had no value for eating. No fish in the Connecticut River or Whetstone Brook was safe to eat. In those days, it wasn’t only memories that settled in this part of town. All of the town’s sewer pipes emptied into the water under the bridge. On a hot, summer day, when the wind was from the northeast, rail customers were happy to be waiting inside the station for their train.

By the early seventies the train station had fallen into disuse. My father was president of the chamber of commerce at the time, and then, as now, Brattleboro was trying to attract and keep businesses. There was a plan afoot to turn the old station into a museum, a plan that would hopefully help to spruce up this end of town. He took me into the closed-up station and showed me around. It was dark and gloomy. The roof must have been leaking for a while because I remember the floor being littered with soggy detritus. It was a musty, uninviting space. I thought to myself, there’s no way this could ever be anything nice.

My teenage pessimism about the possibility of Union Station becoming a museum was soon proven to be unfounded. The Brattleboro Museum and Art Center is now one of our town’s shining lights. And with the dedication of the BMAC Sculpture Garden we’ve taken another step toward making this area attractive and pleasing to all the senses. I hope the stone seats and perches I’ve created here will be enjoyed by everyone, but especially by children, because I believe they deserve to have fun, safe, spaces for their downtown adventures.

During my working life I’ve shifted freely, back and forth, from artist to dry stone waller. Whatever the final outcome of any work, it’s been the making that I’ve liked the best. With ‘Rock Rest’, I enjoyed the creative process so much that I built the piece twice; once in my Dummerston stone yard and once here beside the museum. The stone was initially collected from a steep slope on a wooded property in Townshend. It lay there for twelve thousand years after being plucked from the ledges by the last ice age. In ‘Rock Rest’ I’ve attempted to simulate the natural process that turns bedrock into loose stone. I’ve always been fascinated by the way stones separate from one another but lock more tightly together as they slide apart.

My thanks go out to the museum board of directors, staff, garden designer and installation volunteers for welcoming my work into this wonderful space. And thanks to all of you for your kind attention, here today.