It has been recognized since Mount Auburn’s early decades that the Cemetery’s aesthetic richness, educational value, and historic significance are derived in large part from the remarkable tapestry formed by its diverse collection of monuments and burial markers carefully sited in the landscape. In the nineteenth century, the Cemetery and individual lot owners commissioned a vast array of public art: monuments, structures, and buildings. Visitors, therefore, experienced the site as an outdoor museum as well as a place of burial. Today, Mount Auburn continues its dual mission of active cemetery and cultural landscape by striving to inspire all who visit and commemorating the dead in a landscape of exceptional beauty. While the Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery has long offered tours and programs to the public, in recent years we have further embraced our role as a cultural resource and have begun working with contemporary artists and art organizations to create original site-specific programming.
In 2014, Mount Auburn became the first cemetery in the United States to establish an artist residency program. Our two-year program supports the creation of new work by a contemporary artist inspired by his or her in-depth experience at the Cemetery. The resident artist is charged with creating works for visitors, drawn from their direct experience, that convey a fresh and innovative perspective of Mount Auburn. To date, we have awarded residencies to filmmaker Roberto Mighty (2014-2015) and composer Mary Bichner (2016-2017). Currently, we are delighted to be hosting playwright Patrick Gabridge as the 2018-2019 Artist-in-Residence.
We are excited to introduce Mount Auburn Cemetery’s 2020-2021 Artist-in-Residence, visual artist Jesse Aron Green. Jesse’s work has been exhibited at the Tate Modern; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Harvard Art Museums; the ICA Boston; the Museum of Modern Art, Bologna; and many other museums and galleries around the world. Jesse received a BA from Harvard and an MFA from UCLA.
Jesse has been visiting Mount Auburn since he was a child, when his mother, who studied landscape architecture, brought him on her walks to study the grounds and plantings. As an undergraduate at Harvard University, Jesse would walk the grounds for respite. More recently, he has been here for memorial services as well. In his own words, “I’ve come for nature, for art, for introspection, and in mourning. As the Artist-in-Residence, I hope to do service to all of the functions that Mount Auburn plays in people’s lives.”
Over the coming months, Jesse will explore our grounds, immerse himself in our stories, and begin meeting with staff and stakeholders to conceptualize potential projects for his residency. He brings with him a keen interest in American art and history, along with a track record of incredibly diverse projects which he states “have run the gamut across media: everything from the most traditional of materials – carved marble sculpture, oil paint on linen – to photographs, prints in series, writings, performances, drawings, film and video-installation, and everything else besides.” Stay tuned for announcements and updates on his newest projects here at Mount Auburn!
Patrick Gabridge, Playwright
The Mount Auburn Plays: The Nature Plays and The America Plays
During his residency, playwright Patrick Gabridge wrote two series of plays inspired by Mount Auburn. In June 2019, we produced the Nature Plays, a series of five one-act plays that explored the rich natural environment of Mount Auburn Cemetery. The plays touched on topics such as spotted salamanders in Consecration Dell, birders at Auburn Lake, and historic debates between naturalists who are buried at the Cemetery. Audiences experienced the performances at various spots across the grounds, surrounded by the sights and sounds of the natural world. In September, we presented The America Plays. Mount Auburn was founded in 1831, during the post-Colonial era that would help define America’s identity. This series of five short plays, staged at sites across the landscape, brought to life the drama, philosophies, and struggles shared by Mount Auburn founders Jacob Bigelow, by sculptors Edmonia Lewis and Martin Milmore, and by strong women like Harriot Kezia Hunt and Charlotte Cushman who sought new opportunities beyond the social norms of the time. The journey through the American experience concluded with an immigrant story, featuring some of Mount Auburn’s Armenian residents. Audiences experienced the personalities and drama that lie at the heart of America’s first large-scale designed landscape open to the public.
Mary Bichner, Musician and Composer
Mount Auburn: Spring & Autumn Suites
During her residency, musician and composer Mary Bichner composed a series of new works inspired by Mount Auburn’s breathtaking landscape and landmarks, using her sound-to-color synesthesia to select the musical components that best “match” the natural color palette of each location. As Ms. Bichner completed her compositions in 2016, she participated in a series of “pop-up” concerts and gave talks about her artistic process. In early 2017, her Mount Auburn compositions were professionally recorded. Ms. Bichner completed her residency with two sold-out concerts in Story Chapel. Mount Auburn: Spring & Autumn Suites, the product of her Mount Auburn residency, is now available as a free digital download. Cemetery visitors may also experience Bichner’s music in the setting that inspired it through Mount Auburn’s Visitor app.
Roberto Mighty, New Media Artist
Roberto Mighty, Mount Auburn’s inaugural artist-in-residence from 2014 through 2016, drew inspiration from the sights, sounds, and individual stories of the Cemetery to create earth.sky, an immersive meditation on life, death, ritual, history, landscape, nature, and culture. The original version of his project, designed to be screened in Mount Auburn’s Story Chapel, premiered in full in November 2016. To make the films, music, images, and storytelling of the original exhibit available to audiences worldwide, Mighty completed his residency with the release of an online version of his project.