I have been involved with Highfield Hall & Gardens for most of my life. I took piano lessons there as a child, I climbed the beech trees when I was older, and then for 25 years I supported the movement to save and properly utilize the building. I stood behind others, leaders in the grass-roots effort, by attending as many meetings as possible, organizing fundraisers, standing in front of the post office with petitions—and doing what small part I could.
As a Town Meeting member, I supported CPC grants for restorations. As manager of the Cape Cod Conservatory, I worked hard to repair their contentious relationship with Historic Highfield Inc. I was present for historic moments in the restoration, I had an office in the building for four years, and then I devoted myself to its mission as a staff member for five and a half years.
As you can tell, I believe this historic property matters.
Sparked by activists Kathy Twombly and Mary Lou Smith and stewarded by the leadership of its directors and hundreds of volunteers, the estate was transformed from derelict to stellar. Directors Bob Bidwell and Susan Shephard steered the organization through difficult political terrain and sensitive negotiations. Director Barbara Milligan used her expertise and fundraising acumen to insure that the building and gardens were properly restored for public use. Director Peter Franklin had the vision to generate regional recognition for Highfield and during his tenure he supported excellence in programming, extraordinary exhibitions and landscape projects.
And now this!
A spectacular moment for Highfield is upon us. One of the world’s most significant environmental artists, Patrick Dougherty, has chosen Highfield to be the site of one of his renowned Stickwork art installations. His masterpiece will delight thousands of people who will come to witness and participate in its construction, to play and have ceremonies in it, to be amazed by it, and to be inspired to believe anything is possible.
How did Highfield’s outdoor public art exhibitions grow from a show of tiny fairy houses in 2013 to the magnificent structure that Patrick Dougherty will build over the next three weeks?
How does this kind of thing happen in Falmouth?
That Highfield has come to this moment isn’t any one person’s doing. It is the result of many years—a long step-by-step accumulation of the work of talented, dedicated and visionary people. All of whom have created this platform for something artistically monumental to happen.
Not many small arts organizations have an exhibition director who would consider such a thing possible, approach an artist of this renown for a commission, and believe without doubt that he would say yes. Not all executive directors would decide, “Let’s do this thing for our community. Let’s make this happen.” Few development directors would respond, “Yes, I will write grants and raise the money for this.” Not all board of directors would trust their staff and support this endeavor. But Highfield’s did.
After years of the community giving to Highfield, this is certainly one of the greatest gifts that Highfield could ever offer back. And for many, especially me, it is a dream come true. So, I encourage everyone to be a part of it, to enjoy it and to go up to Highfield—and have fun!
Annie H. Dean