BURLINGTON – A cultural and artistic infusion may soon be coming to the Town Common area.
Thanks to the members of the Burlington Sculpture Park Committee, substantial strides have been made at the local government level to see this innovative initiative come to fruition.
Burlington Sculpture Park Committee Chair Jonathan Sachs recently presented a tentative plan for sculptures in the area of Town Common to the Board of Selectmen. The idea has been explored for the last several years, in large part to thorough discussions that have taken place around the town’s updated Master Plan.
Sachs admitted Burlington is known too much by outsiders for the Mall and various other shopping plazas, which is why he wants the artistic integrity of a sculpture park to let the world know there is another side to the community.
“Burlington has a healthy business climate, a strong community spirit, but has a somewhat low profile in terms of arts and culture,” said Sachs. “The sculpture park would be a step towards bringing the arts to a higher profile.”
Sachs expounded on communities like Cambridge and Somerville having stronger cultural profiles, which gives them an advantage in terms of locating high-tech firms there that hire younger people.
“The sculpture park would change the perception of Burlington among young professionals and businesses looking to relocate,” urged Sachs. ““Burlington doesn’t have a traditional town center like other towns, and we will never have one. What we have is a pleasant Town Center, which is perfect for a sculpture park in so many ways.”
He talked about how the impressive active arts and sculpture program at Burlington High School could allow an avenue for local youth to show their work and build a portfolio.
Sachs stressed the main idea for sculptures in the Town Common vicinity is to potentially change the way people think about Burlington.
The sculpture guidelines laid out by the Burlington Sculpture Park Committee call for fun, colorful, interactive pieces that are not easily broken or destroyed.
“The sculptures cannot be illuminated, political, have sharp edges, and they have to be able to stand up to our weather,” Sachs detailed. “We are looking at putting up sculpture pieces for two years, which would be paid for by a stipend of $1,500 to $2,500. If people do not like the sculpture, then it will be removed and replaced with a piece that everybody loves.”
Sachs confirmed the committee hopes to see the sculpture park opening in June 2020, meaning that they will call for entries and pick pieces in January and have their first sculpture group of artists next June.
The sculptures would either be an already-made piece or newly-made for the Burlington location.
The right space, for now …
Much of the conversation between the Selectmen and Sachs revolved around finding the right location in the Town Common locale.
Struggling to find a preferred destination for sculptures, the Selectmen expressed support for the committee’s proposal to place at least three pieces in the modest piece of land that sits between the Police Station and Grandview Farm, adjacent to Town Common.
Instead of a full-fledged sculpture park at the aforementioned location and on the corners and general terrain of Town Common, as proposed by Sachs, both parties agreed it is best to move this process forward slowly.
“Starting out with the field between the Police Station and Grandview Farm is a fine idea,” declared Sachs. “I have no problem slowing the process down. I do not see any reason to start smaller.”
The Selectmen had a few questions, but generally viewed the sculpture proposal favorably. One question pertained to insurance for any person injured or sculpture piece damaged. Sachs confirmed the existing town insurance would cover the costs for the above-mentioned scenarios.
“The goal is to bring a level of cultural and artistic vibrancy to the Town Center,” professed Selectman Nicholas Priest. “I support this initiative and think it is great idea.”
Selectman Priest is on the Burlington Sculpture Park Committee with Planning Board Chair Barbara L’Heureux, Recreation Commission member Kevin Sheehan, and Library Director Michael Wick, among others.
Any potential sculpture proposal would have to get approved by the Board of Selectmen, after the Burlington Sculpture Park Committee and New England Sculpture Association.
No formal vote of approval was made on this matter, so the Selectmen continued it to their next meeting on Nov. 18.