Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of the Friends of Mount Auburn President Bill Clendaniel Retires - Page 17

The Sculptor as an Archivist’s Best Friend People and Happenings By Stephen H. Anable, Communications Coordinator & Writer Frances Pratt of Cambridge has found a way to use both sides of her brain to the benefit of Mount Auburn Cem- etery: “neatnick” (her own description) and artist. Frances has volunteered at Mount Auburn on Tuesday mornings since 2004, sorting historical letters and papers into chron- ological order in our Archives. She was unbowed when, upon arriving, she confronted 10,000 files to be tackled. “And I am proud to say I have been through 6,000 of them,” she reports. Squelching the temptation to read, she works quickly, pushing through, for example, the Hallowell fam- ily correspondence—relatives of her husband, Harry—so fast she “didn’t even realize where I was.” Frances recently completed another substantial project: creat- ing a photographic record of the Cemetery’s sculpture, an intriguing task since she herself is a sculptor —and each photograph had to capture its subject yet have its own Frances helps repair a marble aesthetic interest. Encountering monument at Mount Auburn Edmonia Lewis’ statue, Hygeia—its marble eroding due to age and the environment—Frances and her husband, Harry, earmarked part of their capital gift this past year toward conservation of the statue, now in progress. In addition, Frances has begun working in the Preservation Department under Chief of Conservation David Gallagher, adding one afternoon a week to her volunteer commitment. Frances relishes her time at Mount Auburn, whether volunteering or walking: “The employees are just a very special group, and I enjoy my relationships with them. The staff on the grounds wave to me. I’m a regular fixture walk- ing around.” Frances describes her own sculptures as “abstract organic,” with lines influenced by the rhythms of nature and the lives of plants and animals. She began working with wood and then went on to use clay, plaster, stone, bronze, aluminum and stainless steel. A Fine Arts major at Connecticut College, she later studied at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, MA, the atelier of Peter Abate, and the School of the Mu- seum of Fine Arts. Her career began on a high note: she entered a competition sponsored by New England Telephone and beat out six men to create a sculpture in front of its new communications center in Framingham. Frances and Harry both grew up on Long Island’s North Shore, she in Woodbury and he in Oyster Bay. Theirs is a love match dating from day school. Says Frances, “At age Frances Pratt at home in Cambridge with her sculpture, Helix. 14 I sat on the radiator in my bedroom on a rainy day and said ‘I’m going to marry Harry Pratt.’” They wed when she graduated from college, and then moved to Cambridge when Harry enrolled at Harvard Law School. As a young mother, Frances discovered Mount Auburn as “a beautiful place away from cars where I could walk with our children.” Harry—a founding partner of Nichols & Pratt, a Boston private trustee office, and Vice Chair of the Board of Trust- ees of the New England Conservatory—donated funds for concerts for Mount Auburn’s 175th Anniversary celebration. The Pratts have three children—Franny of Alexandria, VA, a staff attorney for the Federal Public Defender Program; Hal of Dedham, MA, an artist who makes furniture and teaches at Milton Academy; and Chuck of Jamaica Plain, a computer support manager for Massachusetts Financial Services. The Pratts have five grandchildren, four girls and one boy, so those genes, right- and left-brained, thrive on. ^ Summer 2008 | 15