Cecil Barron Jensen moved to Nantucket in 1996 to be part of a close-knit community. Cecil and her husband Paul sought out a place to raise their three daughters: Claire, Carlisle, and Grace. The community combined with the beauty of the Island and the natural surroundings made this an ideal place to call home.
Cecil’s commitment to the community is evident through the various Island organizations she has worked with over the years. In addition to her involvement on Nantucket, being a lover of the arts she was appointed to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which distributes grants to artists, communities, and other cultural endeavors. Artists Association of Nantucket, Dreamland, and Nantucket Historical Association are some of the beneficiaries of the grants, and she continues to promote MCC programs in the hopes that more members of our community will apply for funding.
She highly recommends if you are visiting Nantucket to stand in line at the Juice Bar and have a big scoop of the triple chocolate mountain on a homemade waffle cone.
What is your Nantucket story? How did you end up on Island?
When I was in High School in Toronto, my Dad remarried, and I gained a new family with a house in Sconset. All of a sudden, I was obsessed with preppy pants with whales on them, rope bracelets, and rose-covered cottages. Moving here in 1996, however, had more to do with wanting to find a small, tight-knit community in which my husband and I could raise our three daughters.
You have held a variety of positions from the NHA and Nantucket New School to the Artist’s Association and now Remain. Can you tell us a favorite experience from each role?
Wow! I have been so lucky in my work on Nantucket. The highlight of working at the NHA was the opening of the new Whaling Museum in 2005. It was a huge endeavor, and I was fortunate to work with so many wonderful people who were dedicated museum professionals. Nothing beats the feeling of accomplishment when we opened the doors and welcomed visitors into the marvelous new museum!
At the Nantucket New School, I was charged with raising funds to finish the capital campaign for the building on Nobadeer Farm Road. The highlight, however, was my work in community relations because I was able to help grow and stabilize their enrollment numbers and welcome, great families into the school community.
The Artists Association of Nantucket was a blast! I loved everything about working with that amazing community of staff, board, and artists. Highlights include opening the Visual Arts Center on Amelia Drive, hosting the Permanent Collection exhibition about Tony Sarg, and planning some really fun special events. Honestly, it was all pretty amazing.
It is an absolute privilege to now work for ReMain Nantucket. It’s still too early to name a favorite experience. Still, I have a deep respect for my colleagues, and I love the challenge of thinking about my work through the ReMain mission to strengthen the lasting economic, social, and environmental vitality of downtown Nantucket. We look at our projects and contributions to the community using a much longer timeline than my previous positions – and that feels special.
You were appointed as a member of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, can you provide some detail about the organization and your role?
I was appointed to the Council by Governor Charlie Baker last year. The Massachusetts Cultural Council is an incredible organization made up of a wonderful team of staff and volunteers who believe in the power of culture. Funded by the commonwealth and other generous people and foundations, MCC partners with artists, communities, educators, and organizations to unleash the power of culture across the state. That means we give away millions of dollars every year through grants to artists, youth, cultural organizations, and communities, including Nantucket. What I find most rewarding is I get to witness first-hand how culture lifts the human spirit and makes Massachusetts a better place to live, work, and prosper. At every meeting of the Council, we hear stories of how people’s lives have been changed by an opportunity to engage with culture at museums, art exhibitions, music, or dance performances. It’s really powerful.
What was your favorite part of raising children on Nantucket?
The beauty of the Island. I truly believe that the opportunity to raise our kids surrounded by the overflowing access to natural beauty has made them respectful of nature, eager to learn about the world, and grateful for the many gifts Nantucket keeps giving us.
My husband Paul and I are so proud of our three girls. Our eldest Claire is currently living in Italy and working toward her Ph.D. in Medieval Italian art history from the University of Toronto. Carlisle lives on Nantucket and is the Program and Development Officer at the Community Foundation for Nantucket. Our youngest daughter, Grace, has also been living on the Island (when she isn’t traveling) working at the Nantucket New School, Strong Wings, and Straight Wharf Restaurant.
What are some activities you enjoy in both the winter and summer months on Nantucket?
Long walks across the moors is my favorite activity – whatever the season. After that: going to the movies, chatting with neighbors and friends at the grocery store or on Main Street, sipping coffee in the sunshine at any one of our fabulous coffee shops, seeing the trees light up Main Street at Thanksgiving, walks past the historic cottages in Sconset, and eating hamburgers at the Surfside Beach Shack. Truly, there is so much to enjoy – big and small – about living on Nantucket.
If someone was visiting Nantucket for a day and had not been before, what would recommend, they must do while here?
Relax! Put away your cell phone and forget your to-do lists and real-life worries. Hop on a bike and take a tour of our gorgeous Island. After that, I highly recommend you stand in line at the Juice Bar and have a big scoop of triple chocolate mountain on a homemade waffle cone.