Patricia C. Phillips Writes in Support of "Greenwood Pond: Double Site"

On March 2, 2024, Patricia C. Phillips wrote the following letter to the Des Moines Art Center (DMAC) Director Kelly Baum concerning plans to demolish Greenwood Pond: Double Site, a site-specific installation by the internationally acclaimed leader of the land art movement, Mary Miss, commissioned for the Art Center’s permanent collection. The work, which opened in 1996, is in a diminished condition with some sections fenced off, suggesting the DMAC has not fulfilled its contractual obligation to “reasonably protect and maintain” the work. The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) is calling for the DMAC to reverse it demolition decision and, instead, to engage in meaningful consultations with the artist and others to find a solution that restores the artwork and develops a long-term, ongoing maintenance plan. 



Dear Ms. Baum,     

I imagine that we share some ideals and interests, values and commitments to engage with and support significant -- and often women artists' -- environmental and land art practices. It is clear that you, with the Board of the Des Moines Art Center, have imagined and advanced consequential practices and projects in challenging aesthetic and environmental contexts, public sites and spaces.     

Years ago, as an emerging writer, editor, educator, curator, and critic I became deeply interested in the dynamic, interdisciplinary scope and range of contemporary artists who advocate for a vivid, hybridity of art and environmental issues within animated and often challenging sites. I believe that my background in art, art history, and landscape architecture, employment at SITE (Sculpture in the Environment), educational and professional commitments, and writing for many different publications on contemporary women artists working within challenging and often urgent environmental contexts demonstrate my passion for and commitment to this established, yet critically evolving field.     

I do not take lightly the financial and maintenance requirements of accountable institutional leadership, yet I write to encourage a bold (re)imagining of Mary Miss' Greenwood Pond: Double Site. I reach out to you and the DMAC Board with an appeal for perpetuation, as well as an understanding of the commitment this requires. Greenwood Pond: Double Site is a context for research, multi-faceted experience, and a vivid example of past, present, and future interdisciplinary thinking and imagination regarding natural and civic spaces that we share, experience, protect, and continue to learn from -- and within.     

This is an urgent time -- and exceptional opportunity -- for the Des Moines Art Center to demonstrate bold and expansive thinking that is the core of enduring innovative and essential patronage. I encourage you and your colleagues not to abandon a continuing legacy of visionary leadership at such a critical time of climate change, global warming, environmental initiatives, research, and challenging thinking and exemplary imagining throughout the world.      

I admire the work and mission of the DMAC organization, as well as Mary Miss' visionary and impactful aesthetic imagination throughout many years and in different contexts. This should not be a time of abandonment of the work of one of the leading artists in the field at such a historically consequential time. This is a remarkable and urgent time for the support and advancement of generative questions and bold ideas so strikingly represented by the work of Mary Miss. I am confident that many people will want to support the perpetuation of this significant work and help you, with the DMAC Board, develop a long-term maintenance commitment and plan to (re)envision and sustain this urgently relevant work by artist Mary Miss -- one of the most significant, consequential, and relevant artists of our time.     


Patricia C. Phillips  

Independent Critic and Curator


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