Dec 032016

There will be a public celebration of Margaret Weigel’s life on December 9 at Medford’s Chevalier Theater.

The late Margaret Wiegel. Photo: Rick Scott.

The late Margaret Weigel. Photo: Rick Scott.

On September 7th, Margaret Weigel died at the age of 51 after a tenacious struggle with cancer. Her vivacity and sharp intelligence enriched a number of lives. There will be a celebration of her life in music, words, and pictures on December 9th at the Chevalier Theater, 30 Forest Street, Medford, MA, from 7:30 to 9:30. A short reception with food and drink will follow. Parking is available on neighborhood streets and in the small parking lot adjacent to the theater.

What follows are some memories of Margaret — a sampling of what will be heard on December 9th — from her husband Rick Scott and others. Feel free to send me your memories of Margaret for posting: billmarx@artsfuse.org

Bill Marx

I became acquainted with Margaret back in 2005 through an introduction via my friend Fred Turner, who worked with her at MIT. I was editing WBUR Online Arts at the time and pounced on someone who was enthusiastic about writing on public art. She contributed to that magazine and continued to send in articles, on issues of aesthetics and technology in particular, when I started up The Arts Fuse in 2007.

Margaret was a joy to work with and to get to know. We shared a passion for cats and the same wonder at the inscrutable whirligig that is the job market. She was a very smart cookie, and her ideas on the future of education and the arts were edged (refreshingly) with sardonic wit, a bracing dash of skepticism about the nefarious workings of the world.

That wised-up disquiet made her just the journalist to cover a vital part of culture, public art, that is generally neglected by mainstream media. Among my favorite of her Fuse pieces was a pointed and amusing 2013 commentary on the fate of the fountain in Boston’s Copley Place mall. So much of Margaret’s distinctive sensibility is here: the plainspoken critic (“In truth, much of what is considered public artwork today is less about art than business”); the impish comedian (“In the wake of the Occupy protests … Copley Place is a bit like that yearbook photo that we laugh at – and cringe at — years later); the wary idealist (“Some clever architects could modernize the Copley Place space in ways that could maintain the fountain in some form. At least they could manage to turn the water back on”).

Another of my favorite contributions from Margaret is her moving 2011 piece on the memorial/celebration for noted animator Karen Aqua. What she wrote about Karen, that she “was the rarest of birds—a working artist who seldom needed to compromise her ideals in order to succeed,” could be said about Margaret’s indelible tenacity. She accomplished so much (and inspired so many) through the resilience of her love for what she believed. I was always after her to write more, to share more of what she thought with the world.

Rick Scott

I’ll remember Margaret’s smile, beauty, intelligence, the witty turns of phrase, her physical grace, quickness to laugh, silliness, and infectious joie de vivre. But most of all I will remember the person she was. How she could courageously battle cancer with humor and equanimity, yet burst into tears after a tough day at work. How she cherished her family, friends and community. loved a hot cup of tea, and her kitty cat. I’ll remember her adventurous sprit, and curious nature. I’ll remember how she read voraciously, had two advanced degrees, and thought big thoughts, yet couldn’t resist picking-up an issue of People Magazine, or watching another rerun of Legally Blonde on the TV. I’ll remember how in-spite of her community service, political activism and manifold artistic, intellectual and professional accomplishments, she never felt as though she had done anything meaningful.

I’ll remember Margaret as living a life well beyond her her short 51 years, and as a glowing example of all it means to human.

Ken Field, musician, bandleader, and composer

Margaret was super smart with a matching super sharp wit, and a dry sense of humor that was almost intimidating. For years she was part of the Bad Art Ensemble’s weekly scene at the uniquely Cambridge town/gown mixing bowl The Plough & Stars, and played bass with the band on occasion. She was a rocker, a thinker, a modern media researcher, a writer, a friend to many, and an inspiration to many more. I was proud to have introduced Margaret to her husband (and my bandmate in Birdsongs of the Mesozoic) Rick Scott.

Jason Gorman, Margaret’s former boss at Six Red Marbles

Yesterday Margaret Weigel, a former Marble and very close friend to many people still here at Six Red, passed away after a terrible struggle with cancer. The news for many of us is both stunning and devastating. Even when she was in the hardest part of her battle, it always seemed impossible that a person so vibrant and full of life could leave us.

The late Margaret Weigel. Photo: Rick Scott.

The late Margaret Weigel. Photo: Rick Scott.

Yes, I know in these moments sometimes people say things like “vibrant” and “full of life” and it sounds trite and feels like a cliche. In her case, however, I’m really being understated. But don’t take my word for it. Margaret believed in evidence, so I thought I’d provide some evidence of the kind of life she lived. She was a successful musician, playing bass in a fantastic punk rock act in the 90′s called the Trojan Ponies (that’s her with the hat!). She was a scholar, working closely with world-class education luminaries like Howard Gardner and Henry Jenkins. Among many accomplishments in this realm, she co-wrote an important MacArthur Foundation-supported article on participatory culture that made huge waves when it was published. She was a journalist who launched a local weekly magazine that once rivaled the Boston Phoenix for a time. Oh, and here’s an awesome piece that she published in the Huffington Post about edX. She was a futurist who understood life at the intersection of technology and the human condition. She saw the world in her own way, which was on full display through her photography.

Most of us knew her best as an educator and a designer. Sure, all these experiences and skills and knowledge mentioned above made her great at her work, but the thing that drove Margaret to do great work was her passion to improve people’s lives through education. She was full of life, and she’ll be missed for a long time to come.

Sharon Hepburn, Owner Mystic Coffee Roaster, Medford, MA

Margaret I know we don’t know each other that well but I’ve always felt you are a kind of kindred spirit. You’ve brightened my doorway so many times, always with a kind word and a smile. In my mind you were elevated to the level of goddess when you told me you were in a band that once opened for the Pixies!

I have to say without your work on the Farmers Market and for Medford in general, I’m not sure I’d be where I am today. Just the fact that there was a market helped me to decide to open in Medford Square. And once open, the market really helped me to get the word out and got me the Whole Foods account.

Allyson Hartzell

I met Margaret through my friend Amanda Nash, and instantly had a connection with her. She was so brilliant and funny, I adored hanging out with her, as we both lived in East Cambridge at the time. I wasn’t one of her very closest friends, but do consider myself a good friend of Margaret’s. She put herself out there, her unemployment piece in the Boston Globe was one of those times; how many people did she help with that honest rendition of her experiences of being turned down for jobs? That was so brave. I also remember when she met Rick, how in love she was, how in love she was with him always. Rick, I am so sorry you lost her. She was a diamond and I can’t believe she is gone. I will miss laughing and sharing our stories as women in science. She was just cool, without trying to be cool, without acting better than anyone else, always with a joke. Bye my friend. I’ll miss you and always remember you.

Via Facebook:

“Remembering watching Trojan Ponies and being in utter awe of the bass player.” – Brett Milano, music critic for Arts Fuse and other publications.

“[Margaret] brought so much good to our community. People who volunteer are very rare and special people. They care about making a difference. [Margaret was] one of those.” – Sharon Guzik, community activist

“[Margaret] conceived of and helped launch the Medford Farmers Market, …and was president of the Farmers Market in its early years. She is emblematic of the type of citizen-driven initiatives that have brought so many positive additions to the city in the last decade.” – Ken Krause, Chevalier Auditorium Commission

“An amazing woman…brilliance, sense of humor, elegance (yes, elegance), uses of baking soda, and those blue suede shoes!!!” – Sarah Smith White, Konenkii

“One of the most brilliant and vibrant women I have ever known.” – Doug Thoms, musician

“She was indefatigable in life, open to absurdity and genuinely caring of the world. What else is there really?” – Jim Kiely, ARIAD Pharmaceuticals

“I’ll say one thing for Margaret Weigel. She couldn’t have cared less what other people said or thought about her from the time she was five years old. At least that’s my memory. And she was kind to everyone when not everyone was kind. She was an unusual and remarkable person, and the world is a less interesting place without her in it.” – Scott Treadwell

Bill Marx is the editor-in-chief of The Arts Fuse. For over three decades, he has written about arts and culture for print, broadcast, and online. He has regularly reviewed theater for National Public Radio Station WBUR and The Boston Globe. He created and edited WBUR Online Arts, a cultural webzine that in 2004 won an Online Journalism Award for Specialty Journalism. In 2007 he created The Arts Fuse, an online magazine dedicated to covering arts and culture in Boston and throughout New England.


Read more by Bill Marx

Follow Bill Marx on Twitter

Email Bill Marx

 Leave a Reply