Art of Memory: 363 Years of Public Art
Local Arts Leader (Jean Mineo) Reflects on Our History and Offers Insights for Today
Background - 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 continuity 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.
What are your reflections on art in Vine Lake Cemetery?
"Well, I have a postcard from the Museum of Fine Arts that says 'All art has been contemporary.' I think of the carvings and sculptures in Vine Lake as quite traditional now, yet they were cutting edge in their day - it's inspiring to think of their technique and skills with limited tools and materials, yet they expressed some of the highest aspirations of the day with profound beauty in the artists' personal style. The art in Vine Lake is the evidence, the documentation, and a conversation with those who came before us. I'm so grateful to the Trust for their preservation and research work!"
You were the project leader for Portals, the first-ever outdoor sculpture exhibit in Medfield's Vine Lake Cemetery. What was your motivation and what were the results?
"I still get comments more than three years later from folks who just loved that show - it was a real eye opener for people to both experience the art outside but also to experience this beautiful setting in town where they may have been hesitant to come otherwise. That exceeded my expectations. Cecily Miller, who juried the art work, was terrific in bringing in top notch artists whose work referenced the site in ways both subtle and obvious - that seemed to resonate with a lot of people. I had hoped people would venture out to see the work and see the cemetery in a new way, but the lasting impact is a really wonderful surprise. I hope it inspired people to seek out other public art projects."
What is it about public art that inspires you?
"Art in public places gives us the 'bump' factor - the opportunity for a chance encounter, a conversation, an observation....if we just pause for a moment. I love that it comes to us, away from the pristine setting of a museum or gallery. It has to take us and our surroundings into account and so I find it much more personal and engaging with all of my senses.
Public art says something about what a community values. And I love the discovery aspect of finding art in unexpected places and the huge range of media used from cast bronze to LED lights. It's not bound to contemporary or traditional models or methods, and the best work responds to more than an artist's vision. I know that every project will have its critics, I just hope that sparks a conversation and becomes an opportunity to explore different points of view."
Read Part 2 of this interview with Jean Mineo in the February 2014 issue of Quiet Voices.