A mermaid created to guard the rail trail found a home at Natural Bridge State Park. But she and her fellow guardians will be gone this fall.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — In 2004, the UNiTY [United, Neighboring, Interdependent, Trusted Youth] program at the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition was honored by the efforts of local youth to create an art installation called "The Guardian Project."
The concept for these art pieces was based on the individual youth's vision of a "guardian": a sculpture that would watch over, as well as honor and protect the natural beauty of the area where it was placed. Eight local youth participated in the project, offering their creativity and vision. The names of these artists are Sean Carollo, Emily Jaramillo, Christopher Winslow, Jordan Gardner, Anne Hyers, Erica Varieur, Erin Gerrity and Jeff Filiaut.
In addition to its artists, "The Guardian Project" was funded through the National Endowment for the Arts and the
Massachusetts Cultural Council with considerable local support from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, Delftree Corp., Grady and Jennings Concrete, Dean Grimes, H.L. Chesbro Co., Deanna Todd, and local artists Ron Hyde and Bill Botzow.
If you have had the pleasure of visiting this installation, you likely have seen the beautifully displayed photos and the information at the foot of the walking path to the clearing where the concrete sculptures have lived, documenting the process and meaning behind each of the sculptures. The pieces, many massive in size, are unique in size, shape and concept. The installation of sculptures created a space for quiet contemplation and a feeling of connectedness with the natural surroundings of the park.
Currently, these sculptures, and the installation as whole, are facing new challenges and a conclusion to their role as "guardians" within the park. Over the years, the elements of nature and passing time have taken a significant toll on the pieces. Many of these concrete sculptures are no longer recognizable as the original works and some are even facing significant fractures and missing pieces. Taking into consideration the inability to restore the pieces, there is also now a safety risk to those who are wandering in and around the installation. Some of the sculptures have rebar sticking out because of fractured concrete and most are not going to remain stable on their bases, posing a risk that they will fall over.
As a result, there is a recommendation and effort to remove the sculptures to ensure the safety of those wandering in the park. As with many areas of life, there is a season, a time of creativity and vision and a time for realization and peaceful retirement.
When the Department of Conservation and Recreation reached out to us, at the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, to determine the best course of action regarding the sculptures, with a desire to respect the work that these young artists had done, we knew safety was the priority and that it was unfortunately time to take them down.
Installations are not permanent, they are created for a period of time. DCR has been a wonderful steward of this installation and there are no ill intentions here at all.
With a quickly approaching timeline for DCR to complete this work, it is my hope that those who may want to get one last look, picture, or even have their first visit to the installation will now know that they will need to do it by Monday, Oct. 14. After that day, DCR will begin work to remove the sculptures at Natural Bridge State Park.
If you are one of the artists, or know one of the artists, who would want to keep your sculpture, you can contact DCR by calling Natural Bridge State Park at 413-663-6392.
It is important to note that artists who want to reclaim their work will be responsible for the removal of the sculpture with their own equipment and at their own expense, as well as any damages or repairs to the park grounds that removal may cause.
I just want to say thank you to our partners at DCR for their respect for the sculptures and the artists. It is unfortunate that the scope and size of the installation, along with the inability to restore the sculptures leads to the decision to take them down, however we are grateful for the time that they were the "guardians" in the park.
Amber Besaw is the executive director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition.
The guardians include a black cat by Filiault called "Superstition"; a crouching caveman with a spear by Carollo called "Siblings"; a giant bird called "Potions" by Varieur; "Hamadryad," a mythological tree guardian, by Gardner; "The Guardian of Water" by Hyers; "Angel" by Winslow; "Eye Spy," an eye surrounded by a tree, by Gerrity; and "Mermaid" by Jaramillo.
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