We wouldn't have thought of Mansfield Massachusetts or nearby Norton as destination towns, but a trip to an outdoor concert at the Comcast Center (former Tweeter Center) made us realize that this was a place to return to. So, about nine months later we did.
Wheaton College, a small (1500 students) college in Norton, Mass achusetts, has history (built in 1832 as a female seminary), abundant art (including a gallery and a separate Mars Arts Humanities building featuring student art) a great Old Town Bookstore and charm galore.
One day in April when we couldn't take any more winter, we checked out the Wheaton College website (www.wheatoncollege.edu) for events and learned that multi-media artist Anne Wysocki was showing and talking about her work. The small liberal arts college looks exactly the way the movies picture New England collegiate life: tree-lined and neat. There are always a few students out in what they call the Dimple, a large dip in the center circle of grass, where students, dogs and frisbees rehearse the rites of spring, never quite getting them right.
At the moment, a gigantic cottage-like sculpture made entirely out of twisted twigs and branches by nationally known artist Patrick Dougherty rises from the ground, as if it were rooted there.(See photo.) The sculpture will remain there until it decomposes and returns to the earth.
We made a day of it, parking in a visitors' lot on Route 123 and crossing by foot. Dougherty's sculpture, which could easily be a home for wood nymphs and sprites, sat a grassy slope to our left, just across from the Watson Fine Arts Buidling, which was our first stop.
We went into the Watson Fine Arts building and up a flight of stairs to Wheaton's Beard and Weil Galleries, which offer 3 exhibits at once. On this particular visit, the central exhibit room featured a history of Wheaton, including photos taken by Walker Evans. You'll also learn that Walter Gropius entered a competition to design their arts building, only to come in second place. (To find out about the latest exhibits, go to www.wheatoncollege.edu/gallery.)
After our gallery tour, we strolled the path along the mamade Peacock Pond. A student who was walking there told us that the pond had once been nicknamed "the Beach" by the 19th-century girls who swam in it regularly.
At the end of the path, we climbed the stairs and entered the bustling Balfour Hood Cafe, where we ordered lattes at the coffee bar and made a quick check of our email using the computers there.
We finished our mini-toru with a quick trip across the quad to the Old Town bookstore, where we picked up a sweatshirt souvenir and some great poem magnets for friends.
From Wheaton, we drove about 20 minutes to the nearby Wrentham outlets, which has namebrand stores--Liz Claiborne, Barney's and Eddie Bauer, just to name a few.
Although the outlet has franchise restaurants like Ruby Tuesdays where you can eat, we decided to wait and drove to nearby Mansfield (about 15 minutes), where the food is a lot better and a lot more interesting. It also put us back closer to Wheaton and the lecture that night.