A Garden Where Dawn Greeley’s Artistic Legacy Can Grow

Dawn Greeley’s art flowed from her love of color, and when she died of cancer last year at age 59, her former art teacher, Skip Lawrence, wrote: “I know full well I am a better person for having known Dawn. [Her work] fills my eyes with a loving joy of the garden filled with her plants and enthusiasm. Her lessons . . . scream, ‘Go for the best, smile all the way, and never let the bastards grind you down.’ ”

So it is fitting that in her honor, a Memorial Garden will be dedicated to her life at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 24, on the Featherstone campus in Oak Bluffs, where she taught. Dawn came up with the idea for the garden the day she received her medical prognosis. Her friends and the Featherstone board members understood generally what she envisioned — a private sanctuary where artists could sit on a bench and contemplate nature — though the specifics of her design were not revealed before her passing.

Ms. Greely’s close friends Marcia Smilack and Alice Early decided to finish the garden for her, scouring Dawn’s studio, finding a folder labeled “Garden” filled with some cryptic notes and a rough sketch of the intended location — but no complete plan. Featherstone director Francine Kelley suggested a consultation with landscape artist Justen Ahren, who had built the labyrinth at Featherstone the year before. Ms. Smilack and Mr. Ahren walked the Greeley property, he looked at Dawn’s artwork and he consulted extensively with Roger Greeley, Dawn’s widower. The collaborative effort took on a magical quality. “I think Dawn sent Justen to us. How else to explain how he could so perfectly capture her spirit and finish what she had just begun?” said Ms. Smilack.

Dawn’s husband Roger, her son Alex and her friends believe the garden would please Dawn greatly. Featherstone invites all to join together in a celebration of her life, a chance to tell the stories that bring Dawn back to life.