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Part 2 - Art of Memory: 363 Years of Public Art in Medfield

Catoptric Tears at Vine Lake Cemetery's Portals exhibit
Catoptric Tears at Vine Lake Cemetery's Portals exhibit
Public art first appeared in Medfield soon after its founding in 1651. Citizens began erecting memorials in Vine Lake Cemetery both to locate burials and to honor family members. Many of the initial wooden markers have long since disappeared, but ones of slate and marble survive to this day. The art of memory, evidenced by a host of gravestone styles and imagery as well as inscriptions, sets in motion a tradition that needs cultivation and continuation today.

Medfield resident, Jean Mineo, and chair of the Medfield Cultural Council was recently posed these questions by Rob Gregg of Vine Lake Preservation Trust.  Her replies to the first questions were published in the Trust's January 2014 issue of Quiet Voices.  Here is Part 2. 

You are a key player in the emerging Medfield Cultural District. How do you see public art woven into that tapestry?

"Art in public places can be a visible and consistent presence where more than two-thirds of Medfield's cultural organizations are run by volunteers and with limited hours. For example, the Art Box installations will tell some of the town's historical stories, display some of our treasures, and use technology and QR codes to bring visitors to local websites and their on-line resources anytime - from the sidewalks on our main streets!

One thing we learned from our work with consultants this summer was to focus on the things that make Medfield unique.

Public art can help distinguish Medfield by building on our assets in ways that are functional or decorative and integrated into our surroundings - on sidewalks, in parks, seating, lighting, or with something more visible that leads a visitor to different sites in town.  

Art in public places is not limited to a mission, tied to say a location or audience - there's more freedom to link some of our other assets like open space, kids, history, and so forth. Public art can help create a destination and a draw for visitors to support our other businesses and organizations.  

Finally, art in public places in Medfield is likely to be temporary, from a few months to a few years, so it can take some risks and adjust.

In my experience, the process can also engage the community in conversations which can be more valuable and lasting than the physical outcome. The biggest challenge will be funding and we've just established a fund as a Medfield Foundation initiative for tax deductible contributions.

Public art and public space go hand-in-hand. Tell us more.

"Public art by its definition is physically accessible. But the art has oftentimes been selected and sited privately - think of the corporate plazas in any city or university setting. That is to say, an entity commissions an artist to create an object to admire and puts it on public display. The art is more likely to reflect something about the business than about the community or surroundings.

That's fine, but I'm much more interested in public art that responds to the challenges of the site, to the audience, to something larger - a theme, a story, history. I like it when there's more to engage with, more questions to ask, more stories to discover, more connections to make. It's far more difficult and time consuming for the artists, but it can also be far more rewarding to create this kind of public work, monumental or not.  

We are in an exciting time for public artists who are pushing the limits of technology so we can explore the world around us in new and unexpected ways. I hope to bring a little bit of that to Medfield."

More information at www.vinelakepreservationtrust.org

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