By Harriet Bee
Truro, MA – The Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill is celebrating its 45th year at the annual Castle Hill Summer Bash on Saturday July 23, and will also be honoring longtime friend and supporter Judy Cicero.
The outdoor party will feature great food, martinis and cosmopolitans by Ray Elman, and dancing to the music of the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, as well as the tribute to well-known Provincetown resident Cicero.
Cicero first came to the tip of the cape as a ten-year-old when her parents began their ownership of Cabot’s, the fudge and candy emporium on the corner of Commercial and Ryder streets, where they remained for many years during the summer months. Much later, as an adult, a teacher, an art collector and antiques dealer, she moved to the Outer Cape in 1972 where she has remained ever since.
Over the years, Cicero has actively served on many of the Cape’s fine and performing arts boards as well as local political organizations in the area, giving generously of her time, knowledge and passion to the causes in which she believes. Always focusing strongly on the arts, and after serving on the board of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) for a number of years, Cicero joined the board of Castle Hill, the Truro art school where she has been an outstanding leader and spokesperson for nearly two decades.
Cicero, who is leaving the Castle Hill board this year, has shared some of her thoughts and feelings about Castle Hill’s origins, growth, and unique contributions to the arts and to the Outer Cape community. Here is what she has to say:
“There are certain things about Castle Hill that are outstanding. It is a marvelous school. It has taught thousands of people to meet other people, to be social, to improve their art, to care about a community, to be in a wild suburban, and urban, setting. It’s close to Boston, it’s close to sophisticated people, it’s close to museums, and when a person comes to Castle Hill, it’s very beneficial for them and others. Children have loved Castle Hill. And I, personally, have been in classes where everyone is friendly and embraces everyone else.
“It’s just non-judgmental and a wonderful place to be. It’s something that gives you a lot of constructive thoughts about yourself, about others, and about your work. And even if you have absolutely no talent, which a few people are guilty of, you will be encouraged in every way to develop your skill. In my experience, the teachers have been supportive, your fellow students will help you at any time, when you are frustrated, when you are successful, when you are at wit’s end and don’t know what to write or paint, they will be behind you like an army. They will help you, and sometimes its whether you want to be helped or not, but it’s a community that is extraordinary; I know that a lot of us have been to other schools and classes but the feeling you get at Castle Hill does not exist anywhere else.
“Now, I have been on the board for many years, ever since Carol Green concluded her presidency and asked me to join the Castle Hill board, and that was the beginning of a long association with the Center. I feel that having been on the board, I cannot say we didn’t have rocky moments; people disagree, they agree, they have separate things they are interested in, they like or do not like something — any group of people will be like that — but the board from the very inception, as far as I know, always came to a consensus no matter what the difficulty was, no matter what the problem was; no matter what people said or did, in the end everyone would battle it out, or not, but agree.
“It was a very concrete feeling that you could express yourself in any way; you could scream, you could stamp, you could throw things, make speeches, be devoted to your own cause, or not, but in the end, from the very beginning, there would be consensus, there would be agreement. And the board, which has continually changed, with different people, different personalities, different skills, always came together in the end.
“And that presentation to the public, to the students, to the town of Truro, to Cape Cod, to nature, always came through. And usually it was stronger than ever after each crisis, whether we were broke, or whatever, we went out and raised money, contributed art to our auctions, and we continued. Artists donated works of art to our auctions, which became famous over the years. We always had community spirit; you could come and sit on the back deck,have a cup of coffee, and be included somehow.
“We had some very big and tumultuous decisions to make, many controversies; some wanted it to be a small organization, some wanted it to grow, we had people with no opinion or plenty of opinion, but so far as I know, 45 years ago when the founders, Joyce Johnson, Eleanor Meldahl and Dan Klubock, created Castle Hill they envisioned a very self-sufficient small art school, an unusual art school. To me the feeling was almost Japanese in its rigor and its freedom and the way it came together. I mean you could be in a class where everyone is doing something else, but it is also unified; there is a fusion.
“When we came to the point when Joyce Johnson said to me that there was a marvelous property for sale that was called Edgewood Farm, very few people knew it. Eleanor Meldahl had lived there with her family and raised her children there, and, of course, she was a part of Castle Hill. So we started to think, as a group, of buying it, and we eventually did, which has made a great difference. Over the course of three years we hammered out all the difficulties and came to the conclusion — a 100 percent of the board voted for it — that we should buy it. And now things are bigger, but they are not different. I find the same kind of community and the same kind of consensus. We worked at getting everyone together on that same page.
I know it’s different, bigger, but it is never going to be isolating, it’s never going to be a hierarchy of people who would govern it; it’s un-collegiate in that way. There’s no provost, no principal or headmaster or head of the school. There is an executive director and there will probably always be an one because that’s who coordinates the school, doesn’t run the school but coordinates it with different projects that the board, the students, people just work on. I guess you would say that the executive director is flexible.
“The current one, Cherie Mittenthal, has done marvelous, amazing things you would not have thought could be done and improved the school every year. It’s even funny for me to call it a school because it’s not rigid, it doesn’t have a rigid structure. It’s a school that is a community, not a community school. So I think that we’ve always leaned toward the positive, toward inclusion.
“The selfishness that you get on many boards doesn’t exist too much here. You think of Castle Hill, you don’t think of what you need. Of course, people are welcome to voice their opinions, but I’d say that 95 percent of the board thinks of how to make Castle Hill better. It’s an amazing confluence of people full of positiveness. And, finally, I am leaving the boardbecause I’ve been on it a long time, I’ve contributed what I can, and I personally am very happy at this point that Castle Hill is where it is today, and it’s going further, its going on and won’t stop. You can see that this is a continuum. Hundreds of years from now I hope it is still here, like Harvard.”
(The Castle Hill Summer Bash takes place on Saturday, July 23 from 6-9 p.m. at the Truro Center for the Arts, 10 Meeting House Road, Truro, Mass. For more information, visit castlehill.org.)