Peter Berry, a Cambridge artist, teacher, activist, athlete, union organizer, and beloved partner, brother, uncle and friend, died of an aggressive cancer on March 9, 2020. He was 62.
Peter was a gentle, compassionate man who bonded easily with people and established deep and meaningful relationships that lasted a lifetime. Warm and non-judgmental, he became a confidante for many. His wonderful wit, modesty, and attention to detail appeared in everything he did — his union organizing, his ceramic artwork, and the house he built with the help of his loving parents and his life partner of 36 years, Andy Nash.
Peter studied Physical Education at UMass-Amherst and earned a Masters in Fine Arts from Rutgers, where he made wood sculptural installations scavenged from torn-down buildings, capturing the destruction of the historic New Brunswick community. In Cambridge, he was chair of the Area 4 Coalition, organizing for affordable housing in the neighborhood.
Peter worked at the Fogg Art Museum for 16 years before joining the staff of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers. He was a quiet leader who nurtured the self-advocacy of others and modeled an organizer’s most important skill: listening.
In the class Peter taught at the Harvard Ceramics Studio, he made sure his students knew they didn’t need fancy tools beyond their own hands. His approach was to use the simplest of implements, for instance a small flat wooden stick carefully labeled with his name, lest it be mistaken for scrap and thrown away. Peter’s uniquely glazed rectilinear vases and sculptural objects are functional and striking, attracting the eye of non-artists and artists alike.
A lifelong athlete, Pete was captain of his high school wrestling team, biked 4000 miles across the U.S. with good friends, made annual hiking trips to the Southwest and along the Appalachian Trail, played basketball and softball, and took up golf later in life. But his greatest joys were spending his summer vacations on Cape Cod with Andy and riding the waves.
Peter walked lightly on the earth, conserving resources everywhere except with people. He loved his family and friends fiercely and will be deeply missed by all those he left behind, especially his wife, Andy; brother, Steve Berry; sister, Linda Berry; three nieces, Alexandra, Christina, and Samantha; and sister-in-law, Marie Berry.
From December 4 through December 18, the Harvard Ceramics Program is hosting “In Celebration of Peter Berry,” an online exhibition and sale to celebrate Peter’s memory and work: https://ofa.fas.harvard.edu/event/celebration-peter-berry-online-exhibition-and-sale.