The new media advocate, curator and artist mentor has died at the age of 72.
George Fifield, founder of Cyberarts Festival and Boston Cyberarts, curator, scholar, arts administrator, creative mentor, videographer, educator, and leading proponent of the fusion of art and technology, presented in November The 11-year-old died at the age of 72 from complications following a devastating fall at his home on Martha’s Vineyard early last summer. Fifield is a legendary character, a gentle bear who is kind and generous to all who meet him. He is the Johnny Appleseed of the new millennium, sowing the seeds of the virtue, appeal and potential of art and technology. He is also responsible for assisting hundreds of artists in developing venues that spotlight visually compelling and often technically provocative artwork. His presence and vision will be sorely missed as a key figure in the cultural communities of Boston, New England and the world.
Fairfield was born in Wisconsin. His interest in cutting-edge art was sparked by his father’s collection of pre-Columbian art. Fifield thus began a lifelong fascination with history, anthropology and popular culture. After receiving a progressive education at an experimental college in Florida, he became fascinated by how the wonder and magic of the creative spirit could be expressed through visual beauty. His obsession with aesthetic serenity infuses his personality: he’s that rare character who doesn’t take hard positions in his dealings with friends and strangers alike. There is a lyrical sweetness to his sensibility. For many artists, his bushy beard and baritone voice became a sign of his artistic benevolence, his generous embrace of a vast array of creative expression, including digital art, light art, lasers, pioneering analog technologies, video, animation, Projection, virtual reality, augmented reality, sound art, bio art and holograms. Fifield has a deep understanding of the intersection of art and technology, maintaining a keen eye and ear for the next technological advancement and its potential aesthetic applications.
in a 2015 doctor fuse interview, Fifield told Debra Cash, “Animation, storytelling, dance, nature, every genre excites me. It’s exciting to watch how artists are going to take a whole new technology and make it their own, explore it, have Sometimes even break it.”
For 18 years he has been Curator of New Media (Art and Technology) at the Lincoln de Cordova Museum and Sculpture Park. A prolific author and international lecturer, he is an inspiration to emerging artists, curators, and arts administrators in the United States and around the world. Fifield is a long-time adjunct professor in graduate programs at Boston University and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
To introduce the explosion of art and technology to a wider audience, Fifield founded Boston Cyberarts. In 1999 he initiated the Boston Net Arts Festival. Held in a range of indoor and outdoor venues, the biennial gathering proved to be a culturally rewarding event, but complicated to produce. The festival includes many discussions and exhibitions: music, dance and theater performances; film and video presentations; educational programs; and lectures, demonstrations and symposiums. As of 2011, the festival has been held seven times. “The purpose of the festival is to get the art establishment and the arts public comfortable with new media,” he told doctor fuse“By 2011, we’ll be able to declare victory and go home.” “Home” becomes Boston’s Cyber Art Gallery, located above the MBTA station on Green Street in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood: it’s the only gallery in the United States located in a subway station. The goal is to support and encourage artistic experimentation by providing space for exhibitions, events, educational programs and collaborations with like-minded groups. Fifield has used this position to successfully promote a strong creative media awareness and digital literacy locally, regionally and internationally.
Thanks to Fifield’s leadership, Boston Cyberarts has consistently brought members of the new media arts community together while reaching the public. Both established and emerging artists can find solid support.
Over the past decade, Fifield has initiated Boston Cyberarts public art projects including the Harbor Islands Pavilion project (in partnership with the National Park Service) and several other temporary and permanent projects. Boston Cyberarts and the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority have teamed up to create Art on The Marquee, an ongoing project that commissions public media art to be displayed on its 80-foot-tall multi-screen LED marquee. Dozens of media artists participated.
The recipient of several awards, including the prestigious Commonwealth Award from the Council of Popular Culture, Fifield has served on a number of local, national and international visual arts councils and committees. These include years as a member of the Boston Arts Council, and most recently involvement with Culture/Now, the Museum Without Walls.
Boston Cyberarts says on its website that the organization is dedicated to “bringing together the worlds of art and technology that span millennia.” Fifield embodies this forward-looking, integrated spirit. In 2015 he told doctor fuse, “My joy is taking a concept and actually using it to understand things I didn’t know before.” He infuses this pioneering enthusiasm into everyone he works with or collaborates with. Fifield’s creative passion, enthusiasm, and curiosity are contagious—a source of inspiration and joy for the Boston art scene and beyond.
A memorial service celebrating the life of George Fairfield is being planned.
Mark Faverman is an urban designer specializing in strategic placemaking, city branding, streetscape and public art. An award-winning public artist, he creates functional public art as civic design. As the designer of the renovated Coolidge Corner Theatre, he was a design consultant for the Downtown Massachusetts Initiative and has been a design consultant for the Boston Red Sox since 2002.Mark writes on urbanism, architecture, design and fine art and is doctor fuse.