Most people would steer clear of a graveyard if they didn’t have someone to visit there.
The silence and emptiness would drive most away after a few minutes. The idea of visiting a cemetery for seven days in a row would seem morbid and unreasonable to many, but that’s exactly what we did. We spent at least one hour a day at Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Richmond. Our goal: Find out the underlying social and cultural implications within the space.
Smaller graves often had personal belongings by them, such as flags or sports memorabilia, suggesting they were visited frequently.
Larger gravestones lacked those belongings, but their elaborate designs suggested wealthy backgrounds.
In either case, the stones were granite avatars which reflected the deceased and their interests as their loved ones saw fit.
The massive cemetery was much like a small town.
Graves were sectioned by denomination (with high-ranking Catholics making up the center) or by race (such as the Vietnamese and Korean sections.)
Death was not a “great equalizer,” as these social barriers were present even in the cemetery.
The funeral business is often portrayed as a field full of gloom, but the people at Mt. Calvary were warm and cheerful.
Ronald, the groundskeeper, went about protecting the graves with a friendly demeanor.
He also showed us how profitable gravestone carving is, with many costing upwards of $12,000.
Death may be morbid, but it’s profitable.
Silence can say a lot, and this project taught me that. It was an experience in observing nonverbal cues and the role a space plays in communication, and it also served as a lesson in how much other people can shape the way the world perceives us, even when we cannot speak for ourselves.
Team: Ali Katz (Strategist), Scott Beard (Strategist)