- Rachel Elizbeth Jones
- "D# Echo" by Nick Campolo and Brian Raymond
In recent months, visitors to Monkton and passersby may have noticed a curious juxtaposition: Beside an unassuming, dilapidated barn on the Bristol-Monkton Road, a gleaming, space-age pseudo-geodesic dome has appeared. What looks at first like an oversize nugget of chrome turns out to be "D# Echo," one of the recent additions to the Willowell Foundation's Gordon Sculpture Park, which celebrated its official opening over the weekend.
Spearheaded by Willowell founder and director Matt Schlein, the park has been in the works for many years. During the opening celebration, Schlein explained to Seven Days that one new work has been added roughly every year since 2012. The five installations stand peppered along a mown path that winds through the Willowell campus. The property is also home to the Walden Project, an alternative education program for students at Vergennes Union High School, and a variety of land-based educational programs.
Schlein said he sees the park as an extension of Willowell's work, which is based on the concept of consilience, an effort to unite diverse disciplines in pursuit of harmonious existence.
In the fall of 2012, celebrated Mexico City and New York City artist Marela Zacarías worked with community members to construct the park's inaugural sculpture, "Azimuth." While Zacarías is perhaps best known as a muralist, here she incorporated sculptural elements appropriate to her site: two defunct nine-foot-long pieces of silo siding. She arranged the curving metal pieces in an S-shape that suggests the infinity sign and painted each of the four surfaces in bright geometric patterns — inspired by a pyramid in Xochicalco, Mexico, Zacarías writes in her statement.
The most recent additions to the park are "D# Echo" and a work from the Mobile Mural Project. The former is an immersive audio installation by Brian Raymond and Nick Campolo, which debuted in Winooski at Waking Windows 2016. Sensors inside the structure react to visitors' movements, triggering pre-recorded sounds. The work sits in the Willowell parking lot, just across from the path's entrance, which is marked by a primitive wooden arch.
Upon meandering down the path, visitors encounter the Mobile Mural Project first. A collaboration between Brattleboro artist and teacher Meghan Rigali and Ethiopian street artist and performer Behulum Mengistu, the 16-by-4-foot painting uses mythological symbolism to share themes of friendship and cross-cultural connections. A deer, representing northeastern North America, is shown making an offering to a walia ibex, considered the symbol of Ethiopia.
From 2014 to 2015, Burlington artist and activist Genese Grill and Monkton artist Grace Corbett worked to install a permanent "walking book" in the park. Housed on sturdy cedar frames under a small roof, the oversize panels feature storybook renditions of excerpts from Henry David Thoreau's essay "Walking." The project was initially conceived by Corbett, a Walden Project student; two of the "pages" are tucked in the cedar grove that harbors the Walden campus.
Off in the distance is "Phi," an installation by local artist Ethan Mitchell. Composed of six small metal panels welded on posts and staggered across a mound of earth, the work creates an optical illusion related to the golden ratio.
Visitors will likely encounter other, impromptu artworks as well — after all, Willowell is a place for creative experimentation. As Schlein said of the sculpture park, "At its best, it helps people envision possibilities."