Art and Inspiration at Mount Auburn

April 2, 2021

Artwork above: Sanctuary by Zhonghe (Elena) Li, July 2020

It is already widely known how many setbacks arts and culture have experienced across all disciplines and media during the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to support an expanded group of artists in 2021, we adjusted Mount Auburn’s artist-in-residence program, which awards one artist a two-year residency, and have made mini-grants to five artists to create original works inspired by the Cemetery during a one-year period. Each of the selected artists will create an original project rooted in their experiences at Mount Auburn.


Zhonghe (Elena) Li has been visiting Mount Auburn for many years, but her deep connection with the place developed after the pandemic started, when Mount Auburn became a sanctuary for her during social isolation. Her almost daily walks at the Cemetery became the source of her artistic creativity and led her to envision a project, The Art of Living Together, about the vital interconnectedness of art and nature and the ways the two are balanced at Mount Auburn. Li’s work will be a combination of watercolor paintings, traditional Chinese papercuts, and video compositing and digital animations.


Ponnapa Prakkamakul will explore Mount Auburn’s landscape with her project, Seasons of Change. Painting in plein-air, she will use a variety of processes including pastels and mixed-media, to observe seasonal changes at Mount Auburn. “As a landscape architect and immigrant, environments – and our relationship to them – fundamentally inform my work. Mount Auburn is an ideal place to observe, explore, and reflect upon the concept of change and connections between humans and nature.”

Photo by Mathew Arielly


Mount Auburn’s plant collections will be the focus of Ben Denzer’s artist book. Denzer will compile organic materials (leaves, flowers, seeds, etc.), arranging and preserving the samples into plastic sheets bound together as a large book. Denzer will publish the book via Catalog Press (catalogpress.org), a small edition press he uses as a framework to make art and explore how information and objects are collected and preserved.1,500 PLANTS “will be a compression of Mount Auburn’s remarkable plant diversity into a single sculptural form; a beautiful and unique book.”


Choreographer and dancer Jennifer Lin will create an original site-specific contemporary dance to be performed at Mount Auburn. Her project, The Gathering Place, will draw inspiration from “themes of history and place, mourning and meditation, and appreciation of nature, while connecting the past with the present.”

Photo by Olivia Moon


Musician Todd Thibaud will compose, produce, and record original songs, inspired by his research and personal experience of Mount Auburn. He will explore ideas relating to humans’ relationship with death and grief, “and the important role that a dedicated space of remembrance can play in that process.”

Photo by Michael D. Spencer


Each of these artists will begin their projects this spring. Their work will be shared through our website, social media, and special programming. Visit Artist-In-Residence | Mount Auburn Cemetery for information and ways you can support the program!

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