First Impressions as a Volunteer: The ‘Interview,’ the Sculptures and the Grounds

The entryway to Parker Home is a stately, elegant approach. Signs point you in the right direction once you emerge from the driveway and if it’s your first time there, you’ll want to gawk at the tasteful, impeccable landscaping and beautiful, yet modern and sophisticated building for a few seconds. I found myself taking in this view, pausing for just a few moments and admiring everything. I wasn’t in a hurry as I had arrived with plenty of time to spare for my “interview” for a volunteer position.
Luckily, on any given day, there is a man with a lawnmower on the grounds working hard, day or night, to keep the place looking in tip-top condition. He is the first figure you’ll notice when taking in the view. So who is this guy? Well, he’s a life-sized sculpture. Many a visitor has stopped to asked him directions, I’m told, so don’t be embarrassed if you, too, feel inclined to go up to him yourself.

I found my way to the front desk and was greeted by a pleasant young man and a few moments later, met Catherine Martino, volunteer coordinator and and Jill Fox, Communications Manager. I was on my way to taking on some volunteer work.

Having just been outsourced from my full-time job at an art magazine, the sculpture out front was of great interest so I asked about the artist. Turns out, there are several sculptures on the grounds at Parker Home by Seward Johnson and all of them are wonderful works of exquisite detail and expression.

The lawnmower guy is a sculpture called “Hell, Time to Go Fishing,” dated 1991, a name I can completely identify with at the moment. He’s positioned in such a way that you can’t help think that he’s been working very hard on the landscaping, even though he’s obviously in break mode, wiping the sweat from his brow, and maybe thinking of taking a swig from his soda can. He’s welcoming and is probably knows a thing or two about the history of Parker Memorial Home. He’s been there awhile.

Another sculpture onsite depicts an artist working on a canvas. His name is “Monet, Our Visiting Artist” and is circa 2003/2010. He is painting the Parker Cottage.

The Parker Cottage is a bit of an anchor, rooting the grounds in its rich heritage and family history. The cottage was originally a home for workers of the Merriewold Estate Castle built in 1925 by J. Seward Johnson, Sr. for his bride, Ruth Dill Johnson. After their divorce, Ruth and her children remained in the Castle until Ruth remarried. Ruth, her husband and her children moved into the cottage.

One of Ruth’s children, Seward Johnson Jr., a sculptor renowned for Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, visited the cottage, his former home, in 2008. He became an integral contributor of Parker’s landscape design and planning. His five sculptures still stand on the property today. The cottage underwent renovations during the Parker at Stonegate development and in 2010, the Parker Cottage and an exhibition of Seward Johnson’s sculptures opened to welcome Parker’s residents, families, guests, employees and volunteers.
As for my interview, we covered all the details about protocol, filled out some paperwork, I gave permission for a background check, and so on. Suffice it to say, it was a positive match and I look forward to helping out with various projects and activities. Of course, I will be sure to visit my new bronze friends outside and perhaps I’ll even catch some of their conversations with newcomers looking for directions.

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