To the Patrons of Elizabeth Park,
From the desk of Michael Kearns:
Artist, furniture maker, woodworker living in Hartford CT.
I was recently asked to refurbish the benches at Elizabeth Park in Hartford CT. As I visit the park quite a bit, I often enjoy its beautiful gardens & oasis-like character. When I was initially asked I was already excited at the opportunity to be a small part of its tradition. I enthusiastically scheduled a time to meet with the staff & take a first hand look at the condition of the benches & the work therein, and then the staff explained to me that something here was entirely more than the sum of its parts.
Here is when I realized that this was more than an opportunity for work for my small woodshop but instead, an opportunity to assume responsibility for something more than just refinishing some slats of wood which, in turn, combine to make a bench.
The staff weren’t showing me benches to be refurbished; they were showing me memorials to be responsible for.
I was shown the names of loved ones, friends and family members, which had been etched onto small carefully crafted plaques sitting upon the top slat, as a memory to be shared.
Some had just a simple dedication and a name: ‘In honor of Pablo & Hilda G ándara.’ (Bench #5). Some had more to the inscription: ‘For Bruce Betts, a man who loved justice, music, conversation and a seat in the shade. From his wife & friends who miss him.’ (Bench #16).
I thought in my heart that these loved ones will be back to visit this bench and so may be back to first, find it missing from its location, and then to see it return. I realized that while your bench was away from you & in my care, that I would treat it as a memorial. I would treat as if I had made this memorial myself in the interest of sharing the memory of someone whom I cared about with all those who pass by.
I want you all to know that while your memories were in my care, I took notice of them and I took the responsibility of caring for them with respect in the hopes to return to you all, not refinished benches, but a show of that respect. A respect expressed to me by the staff at Elizabeth Park and hopefully expressed back unto you by the owner of a small woodshop in CT.
I feel that it was an honor to do this work and I hope that you find your bench returned to you with the feeling of appreciation for something that you and those whom you’ve dedicated these memorials to have made into more than the sum of their parts.
The wood slats that you initially had memorialized are the very same that you will find when they return to you. I took care not to mix them up; the plaques have all been cleaned & straightened before reattaching them; it was a rewarding pleasure to do so.
We wish many blessing to you and yours and offer many thanks from our hearts here at my Studio and from the staff of Elizabeth Park.
Thank you all,
American Wood Cutter