Following a national search and selection process involving members of the wider diocese and experts in contemporary art and sculpture, Philadelphia artist Donald Lipski has been chosen to complete the pediment of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul—empty and unfinished since the original builders ran out of funds 190 years ago.
"We hoped for a proposal that would be beautiful, contemporary and bold but also harmonious with the classical design of our Greek Revival building, something that would be attractive and welcoming to visitors and that would make Episcopalians in eastern Massachusetts proud of their cathedral church," the Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE, Bishop, and the Very Rev. John P. Streit Jr., Dean, said in a March 25 announcement to donors. "Donald Lipski’s proposed sculpture accomplishes all of this simply and profoundly, we believe, as it conveys the nature of the spiritual journey and something of the holy mystery and creativity of the Divine. It was the unanimous choice of the selection committee, to which we enthusiastically concur, as does the Cathedral Chapter."
Serving on the selection committee with Streit were Nicholas Capasso, Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs at the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Board of Overseers member Mary Cornille; cathedral rebuilding committee chairperson Karen Coyne; sculptor Mac Dewart; Jen Mergel, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and Julia Slayton, Executive Director of the Bethany House of Prayer.
Listen to excerpts from an interview with Donald Lipski here.
The text of a news release issued March 26 by the Cathedral Church of St. Paul follows.
March 26, 2012
For Immediate Release
Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts announces selection of artist to complete pediment of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Boston
The Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese ofMassachusetts, announces the selection of artist Donald Lipski to complete the long-unfinished pediment of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul at 138 Tremont Street in Boston, as part of major renovation plans in celebration of the 100th anniversary of its dedication as the diocesan cathedral.
Lipski's proposal incorporates a non-traditional sculpture depicting a cross-section of a chambered nautilus placed against a blue field, to be dramatically lit at night. The installation of the sculpture is planned to coincide with the rededication and celebration of the 100th anniversary as the diocesan cathedral on October 7, 2012. The pediment sculpture is part of the cathedral renovations supported by the diocese's ongoing major fundraising campaign that includes a number of mission initiatives.
The pediment has been empty since the building's completion in 1820. The church occupies an important location, fronting the Boston Common, the nation's oldest park. The church's original founders commissioned Alexander Parris and Solomon Willard in 1818 to construct a building that embodied the new nation's democratic ideals. From that vision came the city's first Greek Revival building, consecrated in 1820. Its dedication as the cathedral church of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts took place in 1912, making it the only Greek Revival cathedral in North America.
Donald Lipski, a resident of Philadelphia, is an internationally recognized artist specializing in public art projects. His career spans more than 30 years and includes major works in many cities across America. Lipski states, “As an artist, I feel great responsibility for every sculpture I place in the public sphere. However, this particular project calls upon every aspect of my creative force and I welcome such an exciting challenge.”
Bishop Shaw noted, “We are doing something bold and extraordinary with the front of our cathedral church because what God has given us to share with the world in Jesus Christ is bold and extraordinary. This sculpture is a major contribution to the public art life of Boston, and it is also a profound one, because the simple beauty of it conveys complex symbolism broadly to anyone passing by, while also being deeply Christian in the way it draws us into the mystery and creativity of the Divine. I'm especially proud of our cathedral church for doing the work of Jesus Christ, feeding the hungry and welcoming the stranger, and now our facade will invite everyone into the beauty of that.”
Conscious of its place in contemporary society and the role of the Cathedral Churchof St. Paul as a house of prayer for all people, the cathedral's call to artists sought to elicit a bold and dramatic proclamation about its mission, using the language of 21st century sculptural form. “Lipski's beautiful and visionary proposal is utterly consistent with St. Paul's longstanding ministry to invite people into the mystery of Christ and echoes Jesus' invitation to followers to "come and see,” said the Very Rev. John P. Streit Jr., Dean.
The artist selection process was led by the UrbanArts Institute at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. The selection panel convened members of the wider diocese as well as experts in contemporary art and sculpture. The national call drew a pool of more than 140 artists from which four finalists were selected to develop proposals. Lipski was the clear and unanimous recommendation of the committee.
About the selection, committee member Jen Mergel, Robert L. Beal, Enid L. Beal and Bruce A. Beal Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston noted: “Of all projects reviewed by so many renowned artists, Lipski's proposal struck a chord. It resonates as an expansive and embracing icon that suggests limitless potential growth and inclusion--a powerful message, not only for the mission of St. Paul's, but for the arts in Boston.”
Fellow panelist Nicholas Capasso, Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs at the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum said, “Lipski's proposal is spiritually profound and arrestingly beautiful, timeless and contemporary, and will be transformative not only for the cathedral and its architecture but also for the urban heart of Boston. It has the potential to be the most important and successful work of public art in this city since the 19th century.”
According to Kathy Kottaridis, Executive Director of Historic Boston Incorporated, “The project is an attractive blend of contemporary art and universal symbol. The historic building suddenly emerges from the street wall with a modern expression of the church's work in today's Boston.”
The Cathedral Church of St. Paul is the seat of the bishop and the cathedral church of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, which comprises 68,000 Episcopalians in 185 congregations across eastern Massachusetts.