Arguably the most lasting and awe-inspiring accomplishment of late-medieval Europe is its legacy of beautiful cathedrals. Though initiated by church authorities, these were true community projects in many ways, with everyone from the aristocrats putting up funds to buy indulgences on down to the architects and artists, the skilled and unskilled artisans, the manual laborers who hauled the stone and the cooks who fed the workers pitching in. Perhaps most remarkable of all is the fact that all this effort was invested with the knowledge that the vast majority of those who contributed would not see the finished product within their own lifetimes. Cathedrals took generations to build.
A project is currently underway at one of Woodstock’s religious centers that will, one hopes, not take quite so long to complete, but that captures a similar spirit of community cooperation on a much smaller scale. Thanks largely to the efforts of landscaper and parishioner Jim Dinsmore, St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church now has a Horticultural Therapy Garden, designed to be wheelchair-accessible, autism-spectrum-friendly and open to the entire community regardless of religious affiliation. The latest component of the garden is an Educational Pavilion, held aloft by four massive piers.
The cathedralesque piece of the garden’s development is the Mosaics Project, which involves covering each of the four pillars with thousands of tiny tiles to form tableaux depicting the natural history of the Catskills through the seasons, based on artist/parishioner Julia Russell’s four drawings of a tree and its surroundings in winter, spring, summer and autumn. Local mosaic artist Kurt Boll, who studied the artform in Ravenna, Italy – the epicenter of its development since the Byzantine period – directs the project, which has been ongoing since 2013.
Boll and a crew of volunteers create the individual mosaic pieces from Italian marble and smalty glass at his studio off Glasco Turnpike. It’s an elaborate and meticulous process, and more volunteers are needed to join in to help create this mini-cathedral for the Woodstock community. Mosaics workshops, open to the entire community, are held twice each week, and no previous experience in mosaics is required.
Persons interested in volunteering may contact Jim Dinsmore at (845) 657-7180. The gardens, open to the public, are located behind St. Gregory’s at 2578 Route 212, just east of Woodstock. For more info and a glimpse of the work-in-progress, visit www.stgregoryswoodstock.org/#!our-ministries/cpwk.