Two years ago, Yvonne Dunetz was the push behind creating the solemn, tranquil labyrinth and reflection garden behind Nashua’s Adult Learning Center. There’s just one more step for her dream space to be complete: she wants to create an art gallery and historic timeline on the 180-foot-long crumbing wall on the garden border.
The wall, which stands between Nashua’s Reflection Garden and Labyrinth and the Adult Learning Center, has a special place in Nashua’s heritage. Nashua residents remember it as the wall that students, when the building housed an elementary school, threw balls over, playing catch with the workers at the International box company on the other side, Dunatz said.
The land beyond the wall became a decayed urban area, before the city made it a “green space” later on. But it got little use until 2010. Dunatz led the way to raising $130,000 to build the labyrinth and reflection garden. Now people come here to think, contemplate, and reflect.
The next step is to make it a place for arts and culture.
“After we finished the labyrinth and reflection garden, I kept looking at that wall. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we could not only fix the wall but also create an outdoor treasure for the city?” Dunetz said. “A study was done recently that found that people in Nashua want more venues for arts and culture,” Dunetz said, and she thought, what better place than this?
So she went to work. It started with finding the perfect artist to help — Yusaf Abudi. His photographs are of Nashua sites and landmarks. They’re captured so beautifully, “it feels like you’re inside the picture,” Dunatz said. “People will be in such awe when they see his work,” which is done in an HDR (high dynamic range photography) process, creating a detailed, almost 3-D effect, Dunatz said.
Then, she collaborated with city officials, Mayor Donalee Lozeau and the Adult Learning Center to see what would be needed to make this happen.
The Adult Learning Center had already been looking to fix the wall outside. The Center received a community development block grant from the city for that, said Mary Jordan, ALC executive director. This grant meant that they only had to raise $15,000 more to complete the art gallery and historic timeline on the wall.
The engineering component just went up for bid, said Jordan. She hopes that the entire project be finished before winter.
Once the wall is built, it will be divided — on the left side, there will be a 110-foot timeline documenting Nashua’s history. Local schools will be engaged to assist in the research and development of the timeline. On the right side will be the gallery, featuring 12 pieces. The wall will be painted black to ensure that the artwork and historical timeline are prominent. The aim is that every two years, the gallery and historic timeline will be updated.
Thus far, they group has raised $5,780. They still need a bit more to purchase the aluminum-based snap outdoor poster frames, with tamper-resistant screws and UV and anti-glare acrylic covers; the canvas with a “luster finish” coated with two UV protective lacquer coatings, to allow for protection from fading and potential graffiti; and the frame supports to allow for easy mounting onto the wall.
Dunatz feels a certain responsibility to finish creating this peaceful place in the city. People visit every day, to think, to walk, to meditate; on Sept. 11, for instance, there was a memorial event there to remember the fallen. Locals roamed to the park and walked the labyrinth, playing drums and paying tribute to lives lost. The labyrinth is in the midst of it all, but it’s away from it all at the same time. Army National Guard veteran Dennis LeBlanc said he “got the chills” when he attended the event on Sept. 11 — he walked the labyrinth and held the flag during the the morning remembrance.
Walking clubs and meditative groups meet there, Dunatz said. People at the Adult Learning Center use it every day, Jordan said.
“This park has brought a richness to the community. We have students from all over the world — some were in detention centers, some are political refugees, and the labyrinth is a really healing place to walk,” Jordan said.
If the space had a motto, it would be that engraved on one of the stone benches at the reflection garden. “One day at a time — breathe — live love — be present.”