Months after the 2015 Nashua International Sculpture Symposium, State Rep. Latha Mangipudi asked members of City Arts Nashua about selecting an Indian artist for the following year’s event. After all, Mangipudi pointed out, Nashua does have a rich Indian community.
The symposium committee agreed that this was a good idea — but why stop there? Why not pull in more artists who reflect Nashua’s diverse population? And why hadn’t they done this before?
“There are 40 languages spoken in Nashua. … We said, we’re really not tapping into that opportunity as well as we should,” said City Arts Nashua President Kathy Hersh during an interview at NIMCO during the third working day for artists. She wore silver earrings by Picker Building artist Gail Moriarty with the Nashua Symposium logo — two intersecting S’s — carved on the surface.
John Weidman from the Andres Institute of Art in Brookline is the guy who finds the artists for the annual Nashua symposium, either through research or through his own experience as a traveling sculptor himself, and with this year’s stipulation — to find Indian, Greek and Lithuanian artists — he came upon Asta Vasiliauskaite of Lithuania,Vasilis Vasili of Greece and Gopinath Subbanna of India.
The trio are creating sculptures for the city now through June 2 based on the theme “Conversation.” During a recent visit, they were deep in concentration, chiseling and grinding away at slabs of stone from the Andres Institute of Art and Milford Granite Company.
The opening reception days earlier, May 12, offered a slew of support and celebration. Food and refreshments came from Silverstone Living — formerly the Hunt Community — JajaBelle’s, Main Street Gyro, Pennichuck Water Works, the Riverwalk Cafe and Music Bar and Taj India. The people at Pennichuck had never even heard of a water bar before Hersh requested it, but they showed up with glass urns, pristine tablecloths and water flavored with slices of fruits and vegetables.
Three point people — Mangipudi of India, George Eftimiou of Greece and Dan Zelonis of Lithuania — rallied the Indian, Greek and Lithuanian communities in Nashua. That included three artists — Monique Sakellarios of Greece, Sally Grigas of Lithuania and Dr. Matcheri Keshavan of India — who showed off their own work that evening between dance performances.
It was the best opening reception party in the symposium’s nine years, which Hersh credited to new people and a new opening committee headed by Karen Wolfe. The changing demographic in Nashua means there’s a large opportunity to expand this outreach even more in future years.
“Nashua is a unique place. The diversity is really emerging. We have a large Indian community, and we also have a large Spanish community. The demographic is changing,” Mangipudi said.
Nashua is the only city in the country to hold such an event, and the last nine years have resulted in 22 sculptures installed around the city, about half of which are sponsored.
Organizing is a lot of work; the event happens on a $20,000 budget, which goes toward recruiting international artists and flying them here, plus their materials, tools and technical on-site help. The community provides in-kind services — feeding and housing them and making them feel welcome.
When completed, the sculptures will decorate the Riverwalk and stand by The Apartments at Cotton Mill and near the fire station on East Hollis Street.
The public can see the final pieces at a closing reception Saturday, June 4, at 1 p.m., but City Arts Nashua is still looking for more sponsorships, which will help print artist statements on the plaques accompanying the sculptures.
Wolfe is currently housing an artist in her home. Last year, she took in Ana Duncan from Ireland, and they became such good friends, they met up again when the two, coincidentally, were traveling in Barcelona this year.
“I love having people in my home,” Wolfe said. “I love hosting and being with the artist. For me, it’s like being home but being on vacation at the same time. … It’s a lot of work … but in the big scheme of things, it really helps me feel like the world is a smaller place.”