Past Perfect?: Fruitlands Honors Its Roots

Alexi Antoniadis, Eden 2.0, hand-formed steel.

Alexi Antoniadis, Eden 2.0, hand-formed steel.

Flavia Cigliano

Nestled in one of the most idyllic landscapes of New England, the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, Massachusetts (a short drive off of Route 2) is currently presenting diverse offerings in recognition of its past as the utopian community established by idealists of the New England Transcendentalist Movement, and its present affiliation, as of 2016, with The Trustees of Reservations, the largest conservation and preservation organization in Massachusetts.

In the summer of 1843, preeminent adherents of the Transcendental Movement in nearby Concord, Massachusetts — Bronson Alcott and Charles Lane — founded Fruitlands as a “New Eden,” an experiment in communal living that aspired to help Fruitlands’ inhabitants achieve their highest potential and thereby to inspire positive change in society. This was to be accomplished by an ascetic lifestyle — vegan diet, temperance for all, farming by hand unaided by animal labor and unadorned homespun linen garments. The direct interaction of the residents with nature was seen as a way to moral resilience and rectitude. The failure of their farming, combined with a harrowing winter, precipitated the end of the Fruitlands commune experiment after only seven months.

Sculptor Alexi Antoniadis was commissioned to create a work to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the establishment of Fruitlands. Designed in painted, hand-formed steel, his site-specific sculpture, “Eden 2.0,” is an elegant and fanciful work. Located on a rolling hill above the site’s buildings, the sculpture echoes the lines in the essential elements of the ill-fated utopian commune — the landscape, the architecture of the humble houses and farm buildings, and the well-intentioned residents. His work reflects the stripped-down, elemental nature of the commune itself.

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