Art in the outdoors: Exhibit at Walden Pond highlights teacher’s work

Six members of the Eco Reps and Petropoulos Art Scholars program spent part of October 28 at Art Ramble 2018, an outdoor installation featuring 13 artists’ creations scattered along a path in the Concord Hapgood-Wright Town Forest. 

Woodworking Teacher Paul Ruhlmann created one of the pieces on display and guided the students for an hour through the exhibit, describing each work of art, among them The Hermit, a wooden sculpture of a man sitting in the center of a clearing; Gargoyle with Butterfly Wings, a mosaic sculpture of a gargoyle; and Cabinet in the Woods, a system of drawers filled with pinecones, stones, and branches found along the trail. His own project, a wooden ladder coated with natural paints, was called Tikkun Olam, Repairer of Creation and inspired by a Jewish concept that kindness can repair the world. 

“I first heard [Tikkun Olam] mentioned in the Mr. Rogers movie,” Mr. Ruhlmann said. “He felt that, for him, that was a very important concept—that part of our purpose in life was to repair creation or to leave the world a better place than [we] found it.”

He explained that Tikkun Olam has many interpretations and said the symbolism of his ladder was also open to interpretation.

Art is an important tool to open discussions about subjects such as sustainability and climate change, he added. 

“When you just tell people the threats we are under, they just stop listening because it’s so overwhelming,” he said. “We engage in a positive way sometimes through art, and it’s an easier way for [viewers] to become motivated to do something about it.”

In creating his work, Mr. Ruhlmann said, he focused intently on sustainability. 

“I have been increasingly careful about how we harvest the wood and use the woodland,” he said. “I would never cut down trees that I felt were threatened or in danger of extinction.”

Upper School Art Teacher Nicole Stone said she was impressed by Mr. Ruhlmann’s choice of material in the outdoor environment.

“He made art from something that didn’t add material waste in the world, but utilized something available without having to transport it or use manufacturing processes,” Ms. Stone said. “I liked that it will disintegrate into the ground.”

Ms. Stone began managing Petropoulos events this year and already scheduled a variety of other art outings this fall, including a September trip to a photography exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, last month’s trip to Jordan Hall to attend a live recording of NPR’s From the Top, and a trip to SpeakEasy Stage Company’s production of Fun Home earlier this month.

“I choose trips that cover a range of art disciplines, will complement the school’s calendar, and will be thought-provoking,” she said.

Ms. Stone said she thought that the opportunity to experience art in nature would appeal to the Eco Reps and be a fun way to get students with overlapping interests together.

Gabby Blanco ’21, a Petropoulos member, said her favorite part of the exhibit was The Musketaquid Shaman, a life-sized sculpture made of moss and 3D printed animal bones that she said blended the modern, natural, and spiritual worlds. 

The Shaman seemed so mythical and powerful,” Gabby said. “The way it was made out of natural components and also 3D printing made it one of the most unique art pieces I’d ever seen.” 

She added that the ramble was the perfect concoction of creativity, art, and the spirit of nature.

Kelsey Ji ’20 said she was impressed by the variety of pieces featured in the exhibit.

“Some artworks were awe-inspiring—others were breathtaking in how delicate they appeared,” she said. “It was really just incredible to see such a range of art in such a unique setting.”

The exhibition is free to the public and will remain in the Hapgood-Wright Town Forest until November 30.

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