Let me take you back about thirty years. The Green-Wood Cemetery of 1987 was a very different and foreboding place. Our gates, by and large, were locked except for families and friends of those interred here. Public events? Unheard of. Programs to preserve our landscape and architecture or capitalize on our unique history were not even in their infancy.
Fast forward, and in 2017 more than 280,000 visitors stepped over our welcome mat to take advantage of our history, exquisite landscape, walking and trolley tours, book readings, art installations, concerts, lectures, theatrical productions, bird watching excursions, and educational events. An extraordinary – and deliberate – sea change, for sure. We’ve opened our gates so that this National Historic Landmark can be shared by all.
Of all the exciting events at Green-Wood in 2017, a few stand out.
On a beautiful weekend in April, more than 4,000 visitors came to Green-Wood to inaugurate a 25-year-long public artwork and “bury” their deepest secrets, hopes, and aspirations in a marble obelisk designed by internationally renowned French conceptual artist Sophie Calle. The installation, Here Lie the Secrets of the Visitors of Green-Wood Cemetery, in partnership with Creative Time, is evidence of Green-Wood’s growing importance as a center for fine art. Ms. Calle has pledged to return periodically over the next 25 years, to exhume and burn the secrets in a ceremonial bonfire and moment of remembrance.
In many ways, Green-Wood is a microcosm of our nation’s history. Working with local schools, we make use of every opportunity to utilize this place as a teaching tool. Nowhere was this more evident than in the summer of 2017, when seven high school interns, under the supervision of Neela Wickremesinghe, our Manager Restoration and Preservation, unearthed and restored the final resting places of a dozen 19th-century free African Americans whose graves had sunken below the earth over the past 170 years. The intensive six-week preservation internship, which included archival research on the lives of those souls, was partially funded by the World Monuments Fund and the NYC Department of Education – more evidence that our educational programs are gaining the attention and respect of important institutions. Over 3,500 students visited Green-Wood in 2017.
I am also pleased to report that work is progressing on the historic restoration of the 19th-century Weir Greenhouse which will be the anchor for our new Education and Welcome Center. Completion could come as early as late 2018.
The breadth of our public programming continues to expand, helping us attract an ever-growing and diverse audience. As a place of memorialization, Green-Wood is a natural space to hold discussions about the meaning of life and death. And with the help of death educator Amy Cunningham, Green-Wood’s monthly Death Cafés created an important dialogue about a subject many are hesitant to discuss. Inspired by centuries-old European salons, the Death Cafés are always a sell-out.
In that same vein, in 2017, Green-Wood unveiled a stunning new event – Lament at Green-Wood – to commemorate one of the most solemn days on the Hebrew calendar, the Ninth of Av (Tisha b’Av). In partnership with “Because Jewish,” the event featured traditional and contemporary meditations on mourning, remembrance, and hope.
Always a highlight on our annual calendar, the 2017 Gala for Green-Wood honored Dozier Hasty and Nancy Havens-Hasty. For more than two decades, Dozier has been publisher of the Brooklyn Eagle, the only daily newspaper in the City devoted exclusively to our borough. Both he and Nancy are longtime supporters of Green-Wood who share an abiding passion for the borough of Brooklyn. We were proud to present them with the DeWitt Clinton Award for Excellence.
As we look forward to 2018 and beyond, Green-Wood will continue to expand our public and educational programming while remaining sacred ground for the hundreds of thousands of souls interred here and their families.
The summary financial statements of the Cemetery and our 501c3 Green-Wood Historic Fund for 2017 appear in the “Numbers at a Glance” section. More detailed statements from which these were abstracted, together with certification of our Certified Public Accountants, were filed with the Division of Cemeteries of the Department of State of the State of New York on March 31, 2018.
Richard J. Moylan has served Green-Wood Cemetery with distinction for more than 45 years. Beginning his Green-Wood career in his teens as a grass cutter, Moylan rose through the ranks and has been president of the Cemetery since 1986, overseeing every aspect of Green-Wood’s operation. He received a B.A. from Hunter College and a Juris Doctor from New York Law School. His pioneering efforts to expand the scope of Green-Wood’s activities have been recognized by the National Sculpture Society and The Fine Arts Federation of New York.