Gardens in Radcliffe Yard Contain Changing and Constant Art

While kept apart from most indoor art throughout the spring of 2020, I became especially grateful for the outdoor art in Radcliffe Yard. I managed to post about one sculpture (Marianna Pineda’s Oracle Portentous) then, with intentions to mention more. Here now is a broader view that encompasses other highlights of Radcliffe Yard.

THE SUNKEN GARDEN  Several distinct gardens ring Radcliffe Yard each with plantings of bushes, trees, and flowerbeds that reveal their colors, patterns and fragrances throughout the growing seasons. Most sited is the Sunken Garden.  Benches around a rectangular lawn offer separate spots for individuals or couples. Though this and an upper alcove have remained  inviting, the garden has never seemed overcrowded to me. Besides mask-wearing and social distancing, an additional reminder of restrictions on its full potential is the covering of a sculpture fountain that was a welcome feature.

“Abutting Radcliffe Yard and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the garden was built over a number of years by the grounds’ staff following no single recorded plan. It underwent a major renovation in 2008 by Landscape Artists Stephen Stimson Associates.” ( quote from “Hidden Spaces: The Sunken Garden in Radcliffe Yard” Harvard Gazette article, mostly photos, June 2016)

PINE IN THE SAND  Dedicated to changing every two years is the Wallach Garden, where each successive winning selection of the Radcliffe Institute Public Art Competition has been installed since 2013. Harvard Graduate School of Design students Isaac Stein and Maggie Tsang created the fourth and current installation, Pine in the Sand ( 2019-2021).

Pine in the Sand tells a story about unpredictable change while highlighting the often overlooked maintenance and infrastructure enlisted to preserve and stabilize the environment. A mound of sand is planted with a pitch pine and partially contained by a ring of concrete barriers opposite rows of granite benches. Through the seasons, as the sand shifts, the tree acts as a register for change.” (quote from Overview at Radcliffe Yard: Pine in the Sand) 

ASPIRING Created by Phlyssa Koshland in 2012, this bronze sculpture stretches skyward outside Fay House.

“Visitors to the Radcliffe Institute now pause to admire Aspiring, a stunning new sculpture created by artist Phlyssa Koshland ’71 and installed a few months ago near the front entrance to Fay House.” (quote from Dean Lizabeth Cohen  Radcliffe Magazine, winter 2016)

“I was inspired by scientists’ quest to know and do the utmost” (quote about Aspiring from KOSHART: commissions artist’s website)

LINKS Whether or not you can visit Radcliffe Yard, you can feast on dramatic photos by Stephanie Mitchell in Across Harvard, Art You Can Touch, enjoy  P.  Koshland’s  energetic figures at Koshart, see videos of all four cycles of winning art in Wallach Garden, and gain historical perspective in Stimson campus projects

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