‘Woodland Garden’ by Michael Singer
Michael Singer is an environmental artist and architect with studios in Vermont and Florida. His sculpture and drawings are part of the permanent collections of many of the world’s major contemporary museums such as the Guggenheim, the Walker Art Center, the Hirschorn Museum, and the Louisiana Museum in Denmark to name a few.
Wellesley College commissioned Singer to create this site specific sculpture, Woodland Garden, on it grounds. Mr. Singer’s describes this work of art on his website as follows:
The two acre site on the extensive, beautifully landscaped Wellesley College campus is located along a pathway that winds through a wooded area on one side of Lake Waban. The journey through the landscape is part of the experience of this permanently-sited work, offering an alternative approach to traditional notions of public art which is usually placed in an urban context.
Woodland Garden is meant to be discovered, stumbled upon, as one travels along the forest trail. The site is defined with low stone walls that serve as both threshold and boundary, referring to the abandoned stone walls and foundations found throughout New England’s reforested landscapes. The sculptural element is sited in a hollow between two small hills in the landscape. Low split-stone slabs and a cut capstone rise two feet above the ground plane and define the upper edge of a chamber that extends four feet below the ground. The sunken chamber contains sculptural layers of cut granite and cast bronze. Over one hundred planted indigenous silver beech and red maple trees, along with wild blueberry and ferns, were planted as a part of the project to blend into the existing woodland flora.
The project was sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, LEF Foundation, Davis Museum and Cultural Center, and the Massachusetts Council on the Arts.
Wellesley College’s Davis Museum commissioned Arts Management Services LLC on several occasions to remove graffiti and repair other damage. The remote location of the sculpture lends itself to being abused by students – both college and high school – as a favorite hangout and party area. Damage often resulted especially when the parties included drinking and a camp fire.
After what looked like regular annual repair bills, I suggested signage and a program that encouraged students to learn about the sculpture and respect it. This has resulted in excellent results with no damage since.
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The restoration work involved removing burnt remains of campfires, graffiti on the walls, replacing moss, straightening bronze elements, cleaning and re-pinning rocks, repairing a cracked slab of schist, and replacing a bronze element that had been removed and lost, presumably as a souvenir. I also taught students to carry out annual maintenance on this outdoor sculpture garden.