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Things are Looking Up at Elm Park

Over the past few months we’ve been heading out to Elm Park, in Worcester, MA, to photograph the state of the park benches and other aspects of the “contemplative infrastructure” there.  Their state of decay seemed to provoke the imagination with thoughts of age, and loss, and what seems like the inevitable link between the two of them.  Elm Park, initially created in 1854 along with Central Park in New York provided an excellent background for such a metaphor, given it’s age, significance and apparent decay.


While this work was very personal, the implied criticism is hard to miss.  I’ve been photographing in Elm Park for a decade and for the most part, have found it to be a compelling if not wonderful spot. Well, as we were about to leave on the 13th, we noted a construction fencing company putting down their wares around a substantial chunk of the north side of the Park, near Highland St.  Indeed, work was about to begin on the renovations of the Park.


You can read about the work, and the challenging of fund raising for the work, here.  The City doesn’t have all the money they’d like to for the project, but they are going ahead.  If there is one thing I’ve learned from my entrepreneurship colleagues at Babson College it is begin with the resources you have, take action. Makes sense to me.


Elm Park is a regional if not a national treasure.  Age and decay are not inevitably linked.  Though the broken benches certainly provide artistic stimulation, we’ll be far better off with a Park that serves the next generation.  I’m reminded of the recent findings from the Mars rover, Curiosity.  It seems very likely that Mars once had an atmosphere and surface that would actually support life.  That is not the case today.  They’re now looking for signs that could explain what happened that resulted in the decay of the atmosphere.  (Do you suppose the signs might say, “Filling Station?”:)  Thanks to the City and the private donors who are taking action to preserve the future.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Good news, James. Yes, if they wait to have all the funds needed nothing may ever get done. Once started I think others will be encouraged to participate.
    Maybe you could document the process/progress for a nice article or presentation.

    March 18, 2013
    • James Hunt #

      Thanks Steve. I do hope this gets some momentum going indeed. From a photographic standpoint, for me though, I’ve drifted away from a documentary approach I think. This experience kind of seals it for me, which has been an interesting learning process. As a citizen I’m very happy, as an artist, less so. The Park really had become sort of a reservoir of artistic inspiration, and I’m beginning to see its connection, for me, to the Quabbin. Both provoke contemplation. Will a spruced up park do so? I hope so but we’ll see. Depends on their approach. Regardless, I’m very happy that they are indeed sprucing it up!

      March 20, 2013
  2. I’ve read a couple of your entries on this park and am glad to hear that they’re finally going to begin the restoration. I hope all goes well and that they’re able to follow through in every way they’d like, and more so I hope you’ll keep us all posted with pictures of the progress! Perhaps I’ll even go and see it for myself.

    March 20, 2013
    • James Hunt #

      Thanks! I hope so as well. As I said above, I suspect the results of their reconstruction will change the feel of the Park. That’s OK, it needs to be done, but I suspect it may create a different kind of photographic inspiration. We’ll see. Thanks again for commenting.

      March 20, 2013
  3. Susan Cummings #

    Has a fund been set up for the restoration? … I am not able to locate anything on the web or city site. We have an Aunt and Uncle celebrating a 50th Anniversary on Pleasant Street and a tribute gift to their city would be wonderful. Could you advise?

    May 26, 2013

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