Why I Volunteer at AIA

It all started when my husband’s new job was in Boston. We lived in the Chicago area. We flew out to look at houses and quickly realized we far preferred New Hampshire to Massachusetts (no offense- just a personal preference for more green space and less traffic!)

I had just about given up hope of finding the right fit for us when we drove south on Rte. 13 towards a listing. As we approached Brookline I got my first view of Big Bear Mountain…and thought it was pretty  cool!

When we toured the house we were very pleased… but I shared with the owner my reticence about leaving all the cool places and great cultural opportunities we had in Chicago.

The owner looked me in the eye and said, “Come with me. I want to show you something that I think is very cool right here in Brookline. It is a bit of a hidden gem. I think you will like it.”

With that we left the bewildered real estate agent at the house and the owner drove us to the top of Big Bear Mountain or as it is now called: The Andres Institute of Art Sculpture Park.

I was amazed…enchanted…curious…and sold!

We bought the house and before the owner moved out of town he introduced us to his friends, John and Paul. Turned out Paul was his college roommate. I think before we were fully unpacked we were invited to volunteer at the park. And we did!

We met really funny, intelligent, creative people. We drank wine and laughed and told stories and discussed various art forms and walked in the woods… And then we met the artists who were invited to that year’s symposium… and once again- I was sold.

Andres Institute of Art is a very cool place. I love creative thinkers and out of the box conversationalists and people who in general are curious about life and lifestyles and different cultures. I knew in my bones this was important… the shared understanding about the creative process transcended our cultural differences, our different languages or habits.

I’d like to share two “firsts” during my time as a volunteer at Andres.

Our children had been studying about the Viet Nam war around the time that we were first asked to be the host family for an artist from Cambodia. This wonderful gentle, funny artist- when asked- agreed to share some of his experiences and his means of survival when taken prisoner during the time of Khymer Rouge. That is his story to tell, but suffice it to say it was a deeply informative and moving evening.

The second “first” was when I was asked to give one of my very first tours. I had experience working with children and they thought I would be a good fit for this group. It turned out that a local church was sponsoring a youth group from Palestine for the summer. The group leader said they were concerned about how they would be welcomed in America. I was their first field trip… and they didn’t speak English.

Suffice it to say- it was a magical day. That is when I realized the language we all know: art. We touched every sculpture and walked around each site and cocked our heads and squinted one eye to gaze at the unusual and the monumental and the profound pieces we encountered as one group on that day.

It is part of our mission to serve and advance the intellectual and social well-being of the public… and on that first tour, on that day with scared children who weren’t sure they could trust me,  I knew that we were doing just that.           

I understood on that day that we do here at Andres Institute of Art really mattered… not just for the leaders or the volunteers or the artists but for our entire community… and just possibly for the world.