Jonathan Sachs readily admits that some of his ideas over the years to beautify Burlington center while making the town known for more than its mall could be considered “wacky.”
While his suggestions for a café on the town common and a farming museum fizzled, the Town Meeting representative to the Master Plan Steering Committee piqued interest in 2016 when he suggested a sculpture park. A $10,000 grant from Nordblom Company has led to it becoming a reality.
In partnership with the New England Sculptors Association, and with approval from the Board of Selectmen, the Burlington Sculpture Park is nearing completion of its first phase consisting of six works. All have been leased for two years, with options to purchase them.
“So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Sachs, chair of the Burlington Sculpture Park Committee. “It’s such a tough time for a lot of people in a lot of ways right now, and having a little ray of sunshine is not a bad thing. We’re thrilled that they’re thrilled.”
Perhaps most recognizable is the newest sculpture, “American Dog” by Haverhill artist Dale Rogers, which the Department of Public Works installed on Aug. 11 at the tip of Burlington common at the intersection of Center and Bedford streets. The 6 1/2 foot tall steel sculpture is similar to the 16-foot-high version on Route 495 south at Exit 48, which Rogers calls “an instantly recognizable New England icon [and] everyone’s favorite canine friend.”
In Burlington, “American Dog” points the way to the other five sculptures located across the street, in an open field between the Police Department and Grand View Farm.
“Endeavor,” by Chris Plaisted of Milford, Conn., is a welded steel structure measuring 8 by 11 by 6 feet, installed on Aug. 1. Although the sculpture is abstract, it is based on the HMS Endeavour, a flat-bottomed British Royal Navy research vessel that Lieutenant James Cook commanded to Australia and New Zealand from 1768 to 1771. The ship is believed to have been sunk off Newport, R.I., during the Revolutionary War.
Installed on July 30, “Follow Your Heart” is a 7-foot-high work of high epoxy resin. In his artist statement, sculptor Mark Wholey of Warren, R.I., wrote, “This figure reaches out to follow his/her heart. He strides with confidence and with sight on the possibilities. He is the everyman or woman with a dream. Every artist that ventures beyond security. The astronaut and inventor. The dreamer. It is about faith in oneself.”
“Next Stop Shibuya” is a 9-foot-tall welded sculpture by Philip Marshall of Grafton, which was installed on July 31. In his artist statement, Marshall said the two flat rectangular steel elements remind him of his rush-hour experiences on the Tokyo Metro and commuter trains.
“The outward curve of these two elements suggests to me the mental separation despite physical proximity that Tokyo, like almost all large cities, requires if one is to maintain one’s own individuality,” Marshall wrote. “Having been compressed into a railway car at Shinjuku, and being pushed further in at each stop, hearing ‘The next stop is Shibuya,’ my destination, was a welcome announcement.”
Holyoke artist Peter Dellert’s “Truth #1” is a steel sculpture measuring 7 1/2 feet in diameter and weighing 600 pounds. After the work was bolted to its concrete base on July 24, Dellert and his wife, Motoko Inoue, carefully applied the inside surface with glow-in-the-dark paint, consistent with his expressed desire to require the viewer to “further examine and question origin, intent, and purpose.”
The final piece, “Global Warming,” is a 9 1/2-foot tall acrylic and stainless steel aerography sculpture depicting two ripe white cherries. According to Sachs, the work is scheduled to arrive from artist Nikita Zigura’s studio in Ukraine this month.
“It’s all kind of a dream come true,” Sachs said. “I’ll take credit for tossing out the idea, but without all the other people involved, it wouldn’t be happening.”
Sachs credits former Parks and Recreation Commission chair Kristine Brown and attorney Robert C. Buckley, a member of the Master Plan Steering Committee, with providing early support for the initiative.
Buckley also serves on the Burlington Sculpture Park Committee alongside Elisa Adams, president of the New England Sculptors Association; Barbara L’Heureux, Planning Board chairwoman; Selectman Nicholas Priest; George Ratkevich, visual arts program coordinator for the Burlington Public Schools; Paul Raymond, a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission; and Michael Wick, director of the Burlington Public Library.
While the unveiling and outdoor celebration this summer was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the public is still encouraged to engage with the pieces while social distancing. The committee is running a “pose and post” challenge, urging visitors to share their photos online using the hashtag #burlingtonsculpturepark so they can be viewed on the park’s Facebook and Instagram pages.
In addition, the winning family of the Name The Big Dog contest will receive T-shirts and a professional photo session with the American Dog sculpture. Entries are being accepted online at burlingtonsculpturepark.org/name-the-big-dog/ through Sept. 20.
As early as next year, according to Sachs, the committee will assess the town’s enthusiasm for keeping, refreshing, and/or expanding the sculpture park to edges around the common, Simonds Park, and other areas of green space. In the meantime, Sachs said he plans to create postcards of the sculptures and scenic buildings in town and see if any of the local stores would like to carry them.
“Burlington doesn’t have the historic downtown of Concord or Lexington, but it’s nice to live in a town that’s postcard-worthy,” Sachs said. “I think we’ve done that.”
For more information, visit burlingtonsculpturepark.org.
Cindy Cantrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.