Mourning Benches

August 31, 2022


Jill Slosburg-Ackerman – 2022-2023 Artist-in-Residence, sculptor and educator – has created Mourning Benches, a series of portable, low-to-the ground cedar benches carved with designs inspired by Mount Auburn’s flora.

Jill has a deep association with Mount Auburn. When she taught at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, she brought woodcarving students to walk in the Cemetery, to study the carvings and symbols in the monuments, and to experience art placed within a natural setting. As a longtime Cambridge resident, Jill has walked at the Cemetery regularly for forty years, often with her late husband, James Sloss Ackerman (1919-2016). More recently, the Mourning Benches project was motivated by Jill’s experience of visiting her husband’s grave at Mount Auburn on Azalea Path. The only way she could be close to his stone was to kneel or sit on cold, damp ground. Jill conceived her work in response to her longing to sit close and to comfortably mourn and commune with her husband’s spirit. Creating the Mourning Benches started as something she needed and evolved into a gesture of generosity for all who visit Mount Auburn.

Thanks to Ted Southwick for helping to fabricate the benches.

A woman sits on the low wooden bench in front of a memorial that reads "mother."


Please borrow a mourning bench to visit the grave of a friend or beloved, or, to sit in contemplation somewhere on the Cemetery’s grounds.

The benches will be available beginning September 15th of this year – for loan at the Visitors Center in Story Chapel 9 am – 4:30 pm daily (must be returned by 4:30 pm).

The benches are made from cedar, which makes them light and weatherproof. The handle is there for portability. Sit facing the handle, and you will be able to look down to see and touch the small drawings and objects incised into and resting upon the seat.

There is a plaque on the underside of each bench with its title and return instructions. These plaques are the same as the ones used to identify the Cemetery’s trees.

Please share your experience and photos with me.

Jill Slosburg-Ackerman, 2022-2023 Artist-in-Residence

Art and Utility: A Conversation with Jill Slosburg-Ackerman


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