Bruce Wesley Boyce transformed his small corner of the West Village into a destination for those in the know. Thanks to Mr. Boyce’s efforts, locals and tourists alike stop in front of the wrought iron gates at 65-67 Jane Street between Hudson and Greenwich to take photos or steal glimpses of the elaborate garden installations, which incorporate dozens of plants, flowers, lighting displays, statuary, and found objects.
“If you want to get a sense of who Bruce was, come and look at the courtyard, because it is his gardening that made it so exciting and beautiful,” said Joel Lobenthal, a friend of Mr. Boyce since 1976.
Mr. Boyce dreamed up new design schemes for the community space that changed with the seasons. He sketched them out to the last detail. He enlisted the help of neighbors to dig holes, plant trees, and go on flower runs. His enthusiasm was impossible to resist.
“Every Easter, Halloween, and Christmas, along with every other important holiday, Bruce would theme the garden. He’d plants tulips and a wide variety of flowers every spring. It’s a magical world that he created for the community,” said Oberon Sinclair, a neighbor and friend.
After his surgery two years ago, Mr. Boyce was no longer able to climb stairs, so he’d lean out the window of his second-floor apartment and art direct Ralph Gleason, another neighbor and friend, to help execute his vision.
“He did not consider himself a gardener, but rather he looked at himself as an artist who worked in the garden,” said Mr. Gleason.
“All the residents and neighbors adored him, and we want to make sure that his memory lives on through his passion for the garden,” added Ms. Sinclair.
A native of Saratoga, New York, Mr. Boyce was one of three children. He joined the U.S. Navy in the early 60’s after high school. Following that stint, Mr. Boyce moved to New York City where he found work at Kenneth, an Upper Eastside hair salon that catered to customers like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, before striking out on his own as a hairdresser.
Over the past 50 years, Mr. Boyce created a wide array of art pieces working in various media. A talented and prolific painter, he leaves behind an extensive body of work.
Mr. Boyce’s support for the gay rights movement was unwavering. “He was here before Stonewall, through the swinging 70’s, the AIDS crisis in the 80’s, and every other major event in the gay world,” said Mr. Lobenthal.
Mr. Boyce died on Sunday December 16th, 2018. He will be missed.