GREENFIELD – Shinichi Miyazaki, an artist from Hawley, has designed and sculpted a unique bench from a maple tree that had been planted in Franklin Medical Center’s courtyard in 1983 by the Franklin County Public Hospital School of Nursing alumni. The tree was planted in honor of Annabelle Stetson, who at that time was the oldest living graduate of the school. Stetson worked for several years at the hospital, and became head nurse at the outbreak of World War I.
In 2004, when the courtyard was recreated as the Ethel Lemay Healing Arts Garden, tree experts determined that the Stetson tree was dying and needed to be replaced; a new Paperbark maple tree was planted in the same location. Because of the original tree’s significance, however, the hospital’s Healing Environment Committee decided to salvage a section that could be designed to live on at FMC.
The committee learned about Miyazaki’s functional wooden sculptures, and commissioned him to create a piece funded by donations to FMC’s Healing Environment initiative. “As I studied the wood, I began to envision the geography of the Pioneer Valley,” said Miyazaki, “and in sculpting the bench, I have depicted the mountains and rivers and the hills and valleys that surround us every day here in the hills of western Massachusetts.”
Miyazaki was born in Tokyo, Japan, and earned his BFA in painting from the Tokyo National University of Art and Music. He has lived in Western Mass. since 1984, creating wood sculpture, and designing and fabricating furniture and fine interior woodworking. A nationally recognized artist, Miyazaki received the American Craft Council Award of Excellence in 2002. One of his chairs was selected for a National Endowment for the Arts/Smithsonian Institution exhibit and is part of the Smithsonian’s permanent collection.
“We are delighted to have discovered Mr. Miyazaki, who has given new life and form to a tree that represents an important part of our history,” said Karen Moore, Franklin Medical Center’s vice president for Operations and leader of the hospital’s Healing Environment initiative. “This beautiful piece of sculpture will be a focal point in our soon-to-be renovated facility. And for the time being, it offers a place to stop and sit along the hallway overlooking the Ethel Lemay Healing Arts Garden.”