the lighthouse

continuing the process

We learn many things from our work after it is up and in the world, and The Lighthouse is no different. An artist may set off in one direction of thought for why they are creating a sculpture, video or painting, but inevitably, the work has something to tell the artist.

I can tell you that I started my process by thinking about Boston being the home of the first lighthouse in North America. About how the materials are chosen for the industries of New England, and how the wool, a material not found on the Christian Science Plaza is in contrast with the static solid massive materials and buildings of the plaza. How the wool can move in the wind and twist among its graceful scaffolding. I thought the grid of the scaffold mimics the lines of its surroundings, the rope bridges the two materials, and in the wind, was a moving line. I thought the lighthouse was about employing the sun as the light of the lighthouse.

But then the installation comes out of the studio, interacts with its surroundings and continues the process that the artist started. It becomes much more than its materials. In this case perhaps The Lighthouse is about opening up. Opening up the impenetrable forms of the buildings or ourselves. The typically thick walls of a lighthouse are not there and we witness the internal structure allowing the light to shine through.

The Lighthouse  at dusk

The Lighthouse at dusk


I am grateful for this experience of showing in Boston, for the people setting the stage of this public art exhibition, Convergence, to the supporters who have helped me inspirationally, financially and by volunteering. Most importantly, I am grateful for the help of my better half, Andrew, who cooked meals, took photographs and massaged shoulders. Below please find those angels bringing light to the arts:

Ann and Johnson Winship, David Winship, Amy Wright, Sarah Bliss, Roz Driscoll, Joanne Desmund, Nod Milliken, Ashley and Peter Milliken, Marr Scaffolding, Industrial Sheet Metal, BMW Ironworks, Shakeyground Farm, The Vermont Shepherd, Tregellys Farm, Winterberry Farm, The Massachusetts Fibershed, Tanstaafl Farm, Andy Rice, The American Sheep Industry, Marci Caplis, Stephen Kiernan, Brian and Elise Napack, Stephen Jones, Andrew St. John, Amanda Shipley, Christine Stevens, Tim Holcomb, Lee Darling Kauper, Sal Strom, Stacy Klein, Carlos Uriona, Sue Katz, Eva Loher, Chris Nelson, Wendy Roth, Anne Maclean, Terry Rooney, George Sherwood, Ron Picnia, Sydney Resendez, Jean Mineo, Julia Shepley, Sandra Workman, Felicia Van Bork, Melanie Hedlund, Hannah Jarrell, Olivia Holcomb, Nicki Robb, Donna Dodson, Mac Dewart, Andy Zimmerman, Alina Bayer, Toni Gaspard, Robert Herlinger.

And to my two studio assistants who wove with me through the seasons, bouncing ideas, silence and laughter, Sarah Cormier and Gina Shvartsman, My Heartfelt Thanks.

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Letting Go of the Familiar

Installation in Boston is almost done, it has been an amazing and full week.

Here is an excerpt from my studio notebook,

"For the past few days I had an extreme experience as an artist. It is something I will not soon forget. Using both new materials and materials I have been conversing with for some time now, I constructed on site for the first time in an urban center. Directing the men who are my “hands” molding the sculpture seventy feet in the air was a new challenge for all of us. I woke up this morning with designs for the next sculpture that is germinated from this melange of unfamiliar."

There will be more information to follow, and more images of morning light and the colorful night time lights from within, but for now....

two weeks to go to installation!

With two weeks to go the studio is busy! Trips to Marr Scaffolding to talk about installation, meetings with Industrial Sheet Metal to get the base measured just right, and of course more glorious weaving! Figuring out the plan for installation starts with packaging the wool.

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This is a preview of one of the most important parts of The Lighthouse. The scaffolding, basically an erector set, provides the structure and skeleton for the wool to interact with the wind.

Names of the sheep

One of my favorite parts of collecting wool during shearing season is feeling the warmth of the sheep still on the newly shorn wool. When I get back to the studio and empty out a bag, usually a note falls out with the name of the sheep written on the back of an envelope or an order from a feed delivery in the farmer's scrawled or flowery handwriting. Let me share with you some of the names of the sheep whose wool will be gracing The Lighthouse:

Aramata, Taraval, Hillerman, Iago, Erla, Charlie, Henry, Betty, Dosteovsky, Isis, Honeycut, Eliza, Pink, Buttercup.

I have not tallied the number of pounds of wool used so far, but my guess is over 150. My heartfelt thanks to the shearers, the farmers, and the sheep. Farming is a labor of love these days, and so is art.


USA Projects Fundraising Effort

I am excited to announce that I have chosen a crowd-funding website to help me raise a portion of the funds for my outdoor public sculpture, The Lighthouse. USA Projects is a tax-deductable platform for artists to raise money for their projects. Here is where you will find information and a video about my upcoming sculpture in Boston;

At USA Projects, you can contribute a tax-deductable gift for this ambitious project and pass the information on to others that might be interested. This networking is an important part of your help, the more people that can help spread the word, the further the reach of my circle of friends who share a passion for the arts.

I thank you for your interest in this important artistic endeavor

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Detail of model for The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse Process


I have launched a new blog about the process of making The Lighthouse. You can find it at

The Lighthouse Process from Nancy Milliken on Vimeo.


on 2013-01-25 17:19 by Nancy Winship Milliken

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Ben Westbrook and Carolyn Clayton of BMW Ironworks working on the model of The Lighthouse.

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Today Sarah Cormier from Double Edge Theatre helps weave wool into fishing net.

The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse, a new site-specific light and natural material installationwill be on view from May to October 2013 in Boston's Christian Science Plaza as a part of the Boston Sculptors Gallery's group show, Convergence,co-sponsored by The First Church of Christ, Scientist. My 70-foot tall wool and sailcloth sculpture will enliven the vast concrete plaza with organic materials responsive to wind and be dramatically lit at night by internal lighting elements. More than two dozen public art installations from Boston Sculptors Gallery members will be on display at the Plaza to draw attention to contemporary visual art and promote its prominent place in the life of the city.


© The First Church of Christ, Scientist. Used with permission. (aerial view of installation site) 


© The First Church of Christ, Scientist. Used with permission. (view of installation site near the reflecting pool)

This dynamic installation will employ scaffolding to surround an existing lightbox that depicts images of children. The scaffolding creates an industrial platform for me to weave 150 feet of raw wool collected from New England sheep farms. The flowing, airy and textural natural materials will provide a contrast to the surrounding static concrete and steel buildings. This mixture of urban and rural materials, The Lighthouse, is full of metaphor: protection, home, community, comfort.

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This contemporary sculpture is my gift to the city of Boston. No money will be made in the sale of the temporary installation, and for this, I will need to raise $10,000 to install and rent scaffolding for six months. Your contribution will, quite literally, provide the foundation of this monumental and dynamic sculpture. In collaboration with The Christian Science Plaza, we have acquired all the required city permits and permissions for the installation. It is all-systems-go right now in the studio; wool is being sheared and collected from local farms, college interns are helping weave and felt in the studio and the smell of lanolin is in the air! 

To follow the development of the process of making The Lighthouse, please visit the studio blog, subscribe to get RSS feeds, or sign up for periodic email updates on the home page.

 Please visit to learn more and to donate.

I greatly appreciate your contribution.

Thank you,


the village

Something interesting happens when you state your intention to bring contemporary public art to a large city landmark such as The Christian Science Plaza. The village gathers. And you gather the village.  During the ground work for collecting the vast amount of wool needed for The Lighthouse, I have met shearer Andy Rice and other New England sheep farm owners who are insightful and offer great advice. Friends such as, actress Christine Stevens offers video and voice over for a fundraising campaign, and educator and farmer Nicki Robb spends an afternoon weaving and contemplating the human/animal connection. Interns from colleges are coming in to work and the studio is filling with the smell of lanolin. Family members are helping with material choices, Marci Caplis helps with editing documents, and artist Chris Nelson bounces ideas to help me see clearer the vision for a sculpture that has taken on a life of its own. Architect Andrew St. John and Engineer George Sherwood help with structural elements; all of this under the guidance of a true mentor, artist Mac Dewart.

Artists are small entrepreneurs conducting on any given day the publicity, fundraising, ordering of materials, meeting with the suppliers, getting permissions, organizing and training help, meeting with architects and designing and creating the actual sculpture. The research and literature read at night to instill deeper ideas is a bonus and a favorite part of my job, but mostly it is the village that I love. Asking for help in my first monumental urban public art sculpture is the first step to actualize this dream.