Southern Connecticut State University Creates Alumnae Sandy Hook Memorial and Reflection Garden
Industry-leading landscape company installs garden that honors Sandy Hook victims and inspires campus community
It has been more than five years since 20 children and six educators were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The tragedy shocked the nation and memories of the victims continue to inspire memorials in the local community.
At nearby Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU), students, faculty, staff, and members of the community have worked to create a Remembrance Garden, featuring a SCSU Alumnae Sandy Hook Memorial to honor the memory of the four alumni educators who were lost that day and to pay tribute to social justice, a key area of focus for SCSU.
While she was a student at the university, Carlene Barnes, a 2013 graduate, created a conceptual design for the memorial that was selected in a juried competition. The unique design combines art and physical spaces, bringing visitors together and featuring delta-shaped stones symbolizing change and underscoring the belief that supporting others begins with small steps.
Barnes and the SCSU staff teamed with Julie Moir Messervy Design Studio in Vermont to complete the design. The garden features a sculpture lined with four fiber-optic lighting strands representing the four alumnae lost during the Sandy Hook massacre and the light they brought into the world.
“The garden creates a setting of peace and tranquility with a beautiful wooden sculpture that reminds us of our alumnae’s courage and sacrifice,” said Joe Bertolino, SCSU President. “This space will serve as a place of inspiration and motivation to break the cycle of violence and build a better society for generations to come.”
BrightView partnered with the university to bring the design to life and install the Remembrance Garden, a part of a larger SCSU Reflection Garden that is a first-of-its-kind physical expression of the university’s five core values: dignity, respect, kindness, compassion, and civility.
“There were many hands involved to make this project a reality and we were honored to be a part of it,” said Justin Wolf, Branch Manager at BrightView. “We began with planning conversations and then moved to prepping the site, helping to manage the project and completing hardscape for what is now the garden’s Area of Compassion.”
Wolf and his team joined with several community partners to provide donated materials and philanthropic support over an eight-month process that included open dialogues with students, faculty and staff.
“We could not have had a better or more dedicated partner than BrightView, who performed the work with such care,” said Dr. William Faraclas, faculty member in the Department of Public Health and co-lead of the Reflection Garden Council. “It was clear they understood the significance of the garden and embraced the spirit of this project.”
Carpentry students from nearby Eli Whitney Technical High School built a curved bench to face the wooden sculpture. The sculpture itself was designed by artists Rich Duca and Meredith Bergmann and constructed at Brooklin Boat Yard in Maine.
Many SCSU faculty are brainstorming ways to incorporate the garden into their curriculum. The garden will serve not only as a space for personal reflection and remembrance but for scholarly and creative activities as well.
“The Remembrance Garden, created with the indispensable help of Justin Wolf, Nick Vincenzo and the rest of the BrightView team, is going to be a center of activity on our campus,” Faraclas said.
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