The great outdoors
View contemporary sculpture outside in this Concord summer tradition
By Heidi Masek firstname.lastname@example.org
It was Pam Tarbell’s experience as an art educator that led her to open the Mill Brook Gallery and Sculpture Garden in rural Concord nine years ago.
“A lot of people have never been exposed to outdoor sculpture,” she said. Sometimes people don’t think they like contemporary work until they see the pieces. Sometimes it’s the kids who embrace it first, Tarbell said.
Tarbell doesn’t mince words about the poor state of art education. Parents don’t know it’s free to visit galleries, and that galleries are there to support artists, she said.
Rest assured, kids are welcome at Mill Brook, where about 100 artists could show up for the opening celebration for three summer exhibits, including an annual outdoor sculpture show, Sunday, June 24.
Tarbell has cultivated a regular group whom she invites each year.
“I never know what someone’s going to bring,” she said. The 18 new works are spaced well apart in her garden, which is adjacent to a pond with horses grazing beyond (one is hers). Outside, kids are welcome to touch the art and run around.
Tarbell recognizes that some pieces are very “salable” and some are more for the experience. Prices range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands. Some of the artists are well known, some just starting out, Tarbell said.
Tarbell said she’s slowly building recognition among patrons who can afford a $30,000 price tag. Several of her artists exhibit throughout the East Coast and are becoming nationally known, including Rob Lorenson, Wendy Klemperer and Joe Wheaton, while some are internationally known, like John Weidman, a Brookline sculptor and executive director of the Andres Institute of Art. Most Mill Brook artists are from the Northeast.
Derryfield School art teacher Andy Moerlein’s entry seems to be the big hit for 2007, possibly because of its size, Tarbell said. It’s several feet high and consists of a wall of saplings bound together with a split log. Moerlein harvests maple saplings from Tarbell’s property to use in his installations.
Another eye-catcher is Lorenson’s “Sentinel.” The steel piece is powder-coated bright red. “Catastrapillar” is a wild bronze piece by Zachary Gabbard of Jamaica Plain in Boston. “Minimalist” by Gerald Friedman, of New Ipswich, is a playful, metal character. You can sit on the two hands in “Peace Offering,” by Michael Alfano of Hopkinton, Mass. Madeleine Lord installed a floating, found-object city in the pond.
On Thursday, June 14, Tarbell was still waiting to receive work from Ataru Kozuru of Topsfield, Mass., and Japan, who usually enters a granite sculpture. She was also looking for the right place to install Megan Cronin’s “Forager,” which looks like intricate metal mushrooms.
Tarbell juried a Monotype Guild of New England exhibit, which is running through Sept. 8 indoors at Mill Brook. Also indoors are figurative sculptures from the Beaumont Sculpture Center in Newton, Mass. The studio was founded by Jean Dibner, a former senior vice president of Avid Technology, who switched careers. The other sculptors in her studio also switched to art from executive positions, Tarbell said.
Before Tarbell opened a gallery at her home, the Rhode Island School of Design alum was teaching art lessons in several media. When she asked students what they learned about art history in schools, she found they didn’t even have the basics, she said. So she included art history in most of her classes. Tarbell also realized parents weren’t taking kids to see art, and decided to make it easy for them since she had the space. It took her a year to convince Concord’s zoning board to let her use her property for “retail.”
Now, the challenge has been getting the word out for people to take advantage of the gallery. A women’s networking group had a potluck there last week, and another group held a fundraiser there for a microlending trust for a village in Ghana. Colleges bring students, she said, but public schools too often lack the funding for field trips.