Meet the Friends: Tim Mitchell

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Beauty is everywhere in the three parks the Friends of the Public Garden work with the City to care for. We often see the beauty in the natural features of these greenspaces, but public art also calls one’s attention. The art caught Tim Mitchell’s eye and continues to attract this architect and ceramics sculptor to the Boston Common, Public Garden and Commonwealth Avenue Mall. He found out about the Friends through the Neighborhood Association of Back Bay (NABB), and has been a member for at least twenty years. When asked why someone might consider joining the Friends his answer is simple, “You should not just join, but also get actively involved in a specific project.” That is exactly what he did. Tim has served on our Board of Directors and is currently the chair of our Sculpture Committee.

For Tim, the parks act as a creative inspiration that continue to capture and hold his attention. Everything about the art in them, from the artists and craftsmen, to the actual pieces and narratives that the objects evoke, is what give the parks special meaning for him.

He is currently completing a six-month body of sculpture using two kilns that are large tunnel-like structures representative of Japanese-style kilns called Anagama, one of which can load about 1,000 pieces at a time.  In September he will start an artist residency with Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts in Newcastle, Maine. There he will work on a historic brick-making project and a related contemporary art expression.

Tim recently donated a piece of his work to the Friends online art auction. The jar wth lid is stoneware with shino glaze to the interior and wood-ash glaze marks to the exterior. The lid is made of wood taken from one of the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial elm trees, across from the Massachusetts State House, during a preservation pruning on December 13, 2014.

Tim says if there is one thing people should know about the Friends of the Public Garden it would be the advocacy we do for all three parks, not just the Public Garden. He says people may also be surprised by the art in the parks, its “magnitude and provenance, all public…24/7.”

Request for Online Art Auction Items

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The Friends of the Public Garden invites local artists to donate a piece of work for an online art auction fundraiser to be held from October 7-21, 2015. Included in this auction will be artwork made from a fallen Boston Common elm tree and other art objects (paintings, ceramics, etc.) donated by local artists.

Proceeds from this auction will support the work of the Friends of the Public Garden to protect and enhance the Boston Common, Public Garden and Commonwealth Avenue Mall.  Each year, the Friends ensures that the critical natural and structural features of the parks receive the vital care they need, including over 1,700 trees; more than 40 pieces of public art; and several newly restored turf areas. For more information about the work of the Friends, visit friendsofthepublicgarden.org

Each auction item will have its own page on the auction website, including information about the artist and links to the artist’s website or other online information (Facebook, etc.).

If you are interested in supporting these green spaces with a donation of an auction item, please contact Mary Halpin at the Friends of the Public Garden at mary@friendsofthepublicgarden.org or 857-239-8937.

The Auction Committee will review all proposed donations before accepting the item and reserve the right to decline a donation. The Friends is a 501c3 organization and all donations are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law.

It’s Hot, Humid, and the Public Garden Tropical Plants Love it!

This summer has been hot and very humid, one might even say tropical.The tropical plants in the Public Garden fit right in this year!

IMG_2451 Tropical plants have been present in the Public Garden for most of its history. According to the book, the Public Garden Boston published by the Friends in 2000, they were first planted by William Doogue in the late 1800’s. The palms and other plantings were stored in the greenhouses and brought out to be placed in the Victorian-style garden. Doogue’s horticultural displays stayed true to the Victorian style, however not everyone loved the non-native species. Many considered it odd to have such plants in the Boston Public Garden. However, these plants appeared year after year to continue the tradition and to further educate people on plants from around the world. IMG_2442 Today, the tropical plants continue to educate and honor a tradition started by Doogue over a century ago. A new executive assistant in the parks department, Josh Altidor, has designed beds that attest and expand this practice. The Boston Globe recently featured Josh in a story about this year’s plantings. IMG_2444 IMG_2449 IMG_2447

How Trees and Shrubs are Weathering Winter

Photo: Caroline Phillips-Licari
Photo: Caroline Phillips-Licari

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”-Lewis Carroll.

The historic amount of snowfall this winter looks beautiful in our parks, but poses some challenges to trees and shrubs. Some obvious impacts are snow and ice breakage. Species with brittle wood, such as elms and zelkovas, can lose limbs from the weight of the ice and snow, especially during windy snowstorms. Another common impact is from salt, which is commonly spread on roads as ice melt. Salt gets into the water that is taken up by the trees, and can also be blown onto trees by the wind. Most trees cannot tolerate much salt exposure without suffering significant dieback. Some other impacts of the wintery weather are less obvious. Prolonged very cold temperatures can cause root dieback, although the amount of snow we have had does provide insulation. Most winter damage to plants is not caused just by the cold temperatures, but by fluctuations in temperature. Trees can develop “frost cracks” caused by the winter sun, along the trunk of the tree.  And evergreen trees are susceptible to “winter kill”, which happens on sunny winter days, when the sunshine tricks the tree into trying to photosynthesize. The problem is that when the ground is frozen, the tree cannot draw water up through its roots, which is required for photosynthesis. This results in dieback of the tree.

Fortunately for us, the ongoing tree care that the Friends provides in our three parks creates resilience to stress in the trees. The pruning that we’ve undertaken in all our parks reduces the likelihood of snow and ice breakage, and stimulates the trees to grow more vigorously, which enables them to withstand the stress of the cold temperatures. One unknown of this historic winter of deep snowpack – estimated to be the equivalent of 4”-7” of water – is whether our trees will become susceptible to soil and tree-related diseases that are caused by excess water in the ground.

Nevertheless, and although it is hard to believe now, spring really is right around the corner. The trees will shake off their dormancy and many will burst forth their flowers, followed by their new, pale leaves.

Claire_Corcoran_photoClaire Corcoran is an ecologist and member of the Friends of the Public Garden Board of Directors. She is a self proclaimed “tree hugger” and dedicated advocate for greenspace in Boston and beyond. Claire lives in the South End of Boston with her husband and three children.

Claire also wrote the recent post, Explaining the Odd Shape of Trees in Winter – Load Reduction Pruning. 

A Holiday Message from Our Historic Greenspaces

Photo: Brewer Fountain by Elizabeth Jordan

If the trees could speak to you, which we have been told happens on occasion, or sculptures could share what they see from their unique vantage points, what would they say? They would be thanking you for the gifts you have given to our greenspaces this year.

We don’t think the trees, turf, sculpture and many special spaces within the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall would mind if we thanked you on their behalf. Speaking on their behalf is part of our mission after all, a mission we are so grateful you share with us.

Thank you for caring for these treasured places. We know that you love them – you show it through your volunteerism, advocacy, stewardship, and financial support – and they love you for it. How do we know? A tree told us.

This holiday season, dear Friends, we wish you and yours joy and peace. We look forward to working together with you in 2015 to continue maintaining and enhancing these irreplaceable gems in our midst.

Celebrating Completion of $4M Revitalization of Brewer Fountain Plaza

Snip20141119_44This month the Friends completed its $4 million project to revitalize Brewer Fountain Plaza and the surrounding parkland on Boston Common near Park Street station. The City led the effort to restore the fountain, which was re-dedicated in 2010. The Friends launched a companion project to revitalize the plaza and entire parkland leading up to the State House and along Tremont Street, which over the years had fallen into a state of disrepair. This multi-year effort implemented by the Friends is the largest single project undertaken in the 44-year history of the nonprofit’s work in caring for the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall in partnership with the City’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Over 260 individuals, foundations, and corporations contributed to this community effort.

In warmer months, café tables and chairs, piano music at lunchtime, a reading room, and quality food have made this one of the most popular outdoor gathering places in the city for residents and visitors. Highlights of the project include granite paving, refurbished grass areas, and the addition of 44 new trees.  Other improvements include irrigation to sustain prime grass areas; improved lighting; new curbing; repaved walkways; and better drainage. The final piece of the project along Lafayette Mall restored roughly 350 feet of historic cast iron fencing to the Tremont Street park edge for the first time in more than 100 years, between Park Street Station and West Street. The original fence was removed in 1895 for subway construction.

Read previous blog posts on this project: 
Discovering Premier Seating on Boston Common
Brewer Fountain Plaza: A Fountain-side Retreat on Boston Common
What’s happening on Brewer Fountain Plaza on Boston Common?

Friends Members Reception to Focus on Preparing for Climate Change

MembersReception

The Friends of the Public Garden Members Reception will take place on Thursday, October 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Revere Hotel, 200 Stuart Street, Boston.

Preparing for Climate Change in Boston:
The Vital Role of Our Greenspaces

2012 was the warmest year on record in the U.S. by one full degree. By 2047, the coldest years will be warmer than today’s warmest. Brian Swett, Chief of Environment, Energy and Open Space for the City of Boston, will discuss what Boston is doing to prepare for climate change, how urban greenspaces are being impacted by it, and the important role they play in mitigating it.

We will also be celebrating Hill Holliday for raising the visibility of the Friends through a very generous marketing campaign this year.

Speaking program will begin promptly at 6:30 p.m.  A reception will follow.

Please RSVP at 617-723-8144 or by e-mail to info@friendsofthepublicgarden.org by October 3. The event is free for members, but space is limited. You can join the Friends or renew your membership at this event!

Thank you to the Motor Mart Garage for being the lead sponsor for this reception.

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