Arts, cultural programs need to be restored at cemetery

It was with real dismay that I read [JP Gazette, Jan. 7] of the “change of direction” sought by the management of Forest Hills Cemetery in the arts and cultural programming offered there. Those performances, ritual events and art installations have been among the most innovative and refreshing in Boston and were a huge asset to Jamaica Plain.

Kudos and appreciation are due to the people behind this amazing collection of programs, most notably to Cecily Miller, executive director of the Forest Hills Educational Trust (FHET) until this past December.

The dynamics behind her departure are not entirely clear, but one thing is: Without visionary leadership, FHET will retreat to a much more tepid set of offerings. They’re “fixing” something that ain’t broke – that is, in fact, inspired and hugely popular. What a loss! And it’s an entirely unnecessary one. There are ample financial resources, an enthusiastic public (more than 6,000 attendees last year) and a fantastic venue. The FHET’s current suspension of programming, as officials “evaluate,” reads like a fig leaf for a process designed not to improve programming but to comfort an essentially conservative cemetery leadership.

I ask all of those responsible for shaping the future of arts programming at Forest Hills not to succumb to mediocrity. Whether they recognize it or not, they are entrusted with the care and feeding of a gem of an arts program—a gift that has enriched our entire community. I urge those who are responsible to seek leadership that is capable of building on that legacy, rather than dumbing it down to the predictable history walking tours and the like.

For those of us who have appreciated any and all facets of this gem—poetry readings, original art installations, modern rituals—this is the moment to demand that the cemetery’s brilliance not be dulled.

I am urging people to contact the cemetery and let them know exactly what they have appreciated about the offerings there. Only then will the programs be protected, and the cemetery founders’ vision of a place where “urban dwellers could connect with nature, refresh the spirit, and take delight in beauty” be fulfilled.

Will Crosby?
Jamaica Plain

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