Nestled in the heart of West Cambridge, Massachusetts, Mount Auburn Cemetery stands as a beacon of history, art, and natural beauty. Established in 1831, this cemetery has been a place of solace and inspiration for nearly two centuries. As the shortest day of the year approaches, Mount Auburn Cemetery prepares to host the SOLSTICE: Reflections on Winter Light event, a celebration that intertwines the solemnity of remembrance with the joy of the season.
Scheduled for Dec 9-10, Dec 12-13, Dec 15-17, and Dec 19-21, this event is more than just a gathering; it's an immersive experience that invites visitors to reflect on the cyclical nature of life and the profound stillness of winter.
The Essence of SOLSTICE
At the core of the Winter Solstice Meet Up at Mt. Auburn Cemetery is the SOLSTICE: Reflections on Winter Light event, a profound convergence of the natural and spiritual realms. This annual gathering, deeply rooted in the cemetery's traditions, serves as a poignant reminder of life's inexorable cycles. Here, the duality of existence—joy and sorrow, beginnings and endings, darkness and light—is not just acknowledged but embraced with a sense of reverence and celebration.
The Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, has long been a time for reflection and introspection across various cultures and traditions. In this context, Mt. Auburn Cemetery's SOLSTICE event emerges as a contemporary expression of these age-old rituals. It is a space where the community comes together to honor those who have passed while also finding solace and renewal in the midst of winter’s introspective quietude. The event acts as a mirror, reflecting the myriad human experiences of loss, remembrance, and hope.
Our meet up gatherings at Kush Groove, set against the backdrop of Mount Auburn’s historic and picturesque landscape, becomes a canvas where the complexities of human emotion are painted in the colors of art, nature, and communal experience. Thousands have come over the years, lighting candles in memory of loved ones, a symbolic act that brings light into the darkness, both literally and metaphorically. These small flames, flickering against the winter night, become beacons of memory and hope, casting a warm glow that speaks of enduring love and the resilience of the human spirit.
In essence, the SOLSTICE event at Mount Auburn Cemetery is a profound reflection on life’s great dualities. It is an invitation to embrace the beauty in endings as they invariably give way to new beginnings.
The Winter Solstice Meet Up is significantly enhanced by the artistic collaboration with MASARY Studios, a group renowned for their creative integration of art and environment. Their contributions transform the cemetery into a canvas for storytelling, where each art piece resonates deeply with the themes of the solstice. This partnership goes beyond mere decoration, offering immersive experiences that engage the senses and provoke deep introspection. Through installations that cast new light on the landscape and soundscapes that envelop visitors, MASARY Studios creates a dialogue between the observer and the observed, inviting attendees to engage with the cemetery's environment in a profoundly personal yet universally resonant way.
This collaboration celebrates the cycles of nature and life emblematic of Mount Auburn, enhancing its natural beauty and solemnity. MASARY Studios' vision transforms the space into an intersection of art, nature, and human experience, providing a unique perspective on the profound themes of the winter solstice. The success of this artistic endeavor lies in its ability to create a meaningful, reflective experience that honors the spirit of the event and the sacredness of the cemetery.
What to Expect at the Winter Solstice?
Attendees of the Winter Solstice event can anticipate a well-orchestrated experience from the moment they arrive. The event is designed to be welcoming and accessible, with organized check-in tents located at strategic points to facilitate smooth entry. Parking is thoughtfully arranged, with attendants guiding visitors to available spots and multiple areas designated for parking, ensuring convenience and safety. The event also encourages sustainable transportation options, aligning with the ethos of environmental awareness and respect. Once inside, guests will find themselves in a landscape transformed by art and light, with each step along the meticulously illuminated pathways offering a new perspective on the cemetery's historic beauty.
Meet up dates:
- December 9th, 2023
- December 10th, 2023
- December 12th, 2023
- December 13th, 2023
- December 15th, 2023
- December 16th, 2023
- December 17th, 2023
- December 19th, 2023
- December 20th, 2023
- December 21st, 2023
The event is not just about reflection and remembrance; it also offers hospitality and engagement through local vendors. These vendors provide an array of merchandise, warm beverages, and baked goods, adding a comforting element to the chilly winter night. As visitors meander through the grounds, they will encounter various art installations, each thoughtfully placed to enhance the natural and historic setting of the cemetery. These installations, ranging from the ethereal Hortus Gateway to the contemplative Eclipse, serve as highlights of the journey, inviting attendees to pause and immerse themselves in the moment. The experience is both a visual feast and a journey of introspection, with the artwork and the serene environment working in tandem to create a unique and memorable solstice celebration.
Featured Artworks and Artists
Thought Artist Video at Story Chapel
- Artists' Reflections on Winter Solstice: This installation is a central feature of the event, showcasing a series of reflections and interpretations of the winter solstice by various artists. Deb Todd Wheeler, Karin Sprague, ‘Mwalim’ Morgan James Peters, and Ricardo Austrich are among the featured artists, each contributing their unique perspective and medium. Their artistic expressions, ranging from multimedia art to storytelling and music, delve deep into the themes of time, nature, and the human experience.
Eclipse at Hazel Dell
- A Celestial Phenomenon Captured: The Eclipse at Hazel Dell is a standout installation for its creative interpretation of celestial phenomena. It offers an intimate space for meditation and contemplation, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the essence of an eclipse. This piece embodies the theme of transition from light to darkness and back, echoing the natural rhythm of the solstice.
Solstice Canvas at Bigelow Chapel
- Architectural Light and Sound Display: Transforming the facade of Bigelow Chapel, the Solstice Canvas is an artistic marvel that combines light and sound to create a dynamic display. This installation symbolizes the harmony of darkness and light, reflecting the dichotomy of the winter solstice. It serves as a visual and auditory representation of the interplay between the physical structure of the chapel and the ethereal aspects of the solstice.
Phase Garden at Asa Gray Garden
- Cosmic-Inspired Audio-Visual Environment: The Phase Garden in Asa Gray Garden offers a unique, immersive experience. Inspired by the cosmic relationships within our solar system, this installation creates an audio-visual environment that invites visitors to contemplate the vastness and intricacies of the cosmos. The installation combines artistic liberty with compositional logic, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the rhythms of space and time.
Each of these installations contributes to the multifaceted experience of the Winter Solstice Meet Up. They encourage visitors to engage actively with the event, providing opportunities for reflection, discovery, and a deeper understanding of the solstice's significance.
Historic Significance of Venues
The Winter Solstice is deeply enriched by the historic significance of its venues, each contributing to the event's solemn and reflective atmosphere. Story Chapel, an architectural gem designed in the English Perpendicular Style by Willard T. Sears, stands as a testament to the cemetery's storied past. Built in the late 19th century and named after Joseph Story, a founder of Mount Auburn and an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, the chapel has been a central part of the cemetery’s narrative. Its majestic structure and intricate design provide a fitting backdrop for the Thought Artist Video, adding historical depth to the contemporary artistic expressions showcased within.
Equally significant is Bigelow Chapel, a symbol of the cemetery's commitment to blending art, architecture, and memorialization. Designed in the 1840s with a Gothic architectural style, the chapel was initially intended to exhibit marble sculptures and works of art. Its evolution over the years, including the addition of a state-of-the-art crematory and a contemporary wing, mirrors changing attitudes towards burial practices and memorial services. This historical evolution enhances the Solstice Canvas installation, adding layers of meaning to the experience. Hazel Dell and Asa Gray Garden, other key venues within the cemetery, offer their own unique historical and botanical significance. Hazel Dell, with its secluded, serene setting and Asa Gray Garden, named after the "father of American horticulture," provide tranquil and thought-provoking environments for installations like Eclipse and Phase Garden. These venues, steeped in history and natural beauty, not only serve as beautiful settings for the event but also as silent storytellers, sharing the legacy of those commemorated within their grounds. Their historical importance enriches the solstice experience, allowing visitors to connect with the past while engaging with the present.
The Winter Solstice Meet Up at Mt. Auburn Cemetery is more than an event; it's a celebration of life, art, and community. It's an invitation to step into a world where history, nature, and creativity converge, offering a space for reflection and renewal. As visitors wander through the illuminated paths, engage with thought-provoking art, and immerse themselves in the history of the chapels and gardens, they become part of a tradition that honors the past while embracing the present. This event is a unique opportunity to connect with the cycles of life and the enduring spirit of the community during the winter solstice.