Before lunchtime on a late September day, the paved outdoor trail leading to the Andres Institute of Art artists on Big Bear Mountain was crowded with students from John Stark Regional High School. They stood amongst the metal and stone sculptures strategically placed about the trails, and soon, they’d be joined by a crowd of senior citizens, who were driving up to see the artists.
Since Sept. 14, four sculptors — Alak Roy from Bangladesh, Norbert Jager from Germany, Ennica Mukomberanwa from Zimbabwe and Bernie Carreno from Texas — have been welding, grinding and chipping away at new pieces to be displayed at the sculpture park, as part of the Andres Institute of Art’s 16th Annual International Sculpture Symposium.
The 2014 sculptures will occupy a new trail that starts at the base of the mountain alongside recently installed picnic tables. There will be a guided tour Saturday, Oct. 4, at 10 a.m. and a closing celebration on Sunday, Oct. 5, at 3 p.m. at the Big Bear Lodge.
“We’re going to have a dramatic closing day. There will be a hike, and we’ll be putting sheets over the sculptures,” Robin Clark, Andres Institute board president, said during an interview at the sculpture park.
Behind her, artists were working hard under the theme “Intimate View” in order to make deadline. (Though Clark said the artists get total creative freedom in their art.)
Mukomberanwa was working on a pair of granite sculptures that, when finished, will complement one another and be called “We Are One.” The first seemed to contain two faces snuggling close to one another, the second unfinished.
Mukomberanwa was excited to visit; she’d never worked with granite before, and she was learning quite a bit about new practices and how to work with the material. Earlier that week, for instance, Andres artistic director/co-founder John Weidman taught her how to most efficiently break the stone in two.
“I find it very interesting, very exciting and very educational,” Mukomberanwa said. “It’s my first time in New Hampshire. … The community is very supportive.”
Jager, a German artist from Hamburg, said he altered the course of his sculpture completely when he arrived. He’s traveled nationally and internationally for sculpture symposiums — to Seattle, to South Korea, to Italy, to Belgium and within his native country — but never to New England, though he’d always wanted to.
Initially, his sculpture was to revolve about a stone boulder, which would hang within a metal cube. Once he arrived, he scrapped that idea and decided to incorporate more metal, which he doesn’t have so much access to where he lives. When through, his piece, “Human Boulder,” will comprise two figural silhouettes on either side of a granite boulder.
“I’m inspired by everybody, everything,” he said during a break from his work. “To have all these materials available. … provides new possibilities.”
The event happens in part because of the supportive surrounding community — artists stay with community members who feed them and drive them to and from Big Bear Mountain — and also because of fundraisers like the Iron Melt (see side box), raffles and monetary/in-kind donations. Clark said they’re trying to obtain more grants.
During their stay here, artists work most days, but on the weekends, they often take day trips; the weekend prior, they had seen the New Hampshire coast and the Currier Museum of Art’s new M.C. Escher exhibition. The next weekend, they’d drive to Boston.
The goal of the yearly symposium is to educate; school classes drive (or walk) up all the time, Clark said, to focus on art, the represented countries or even fitness. (It’s a long walk to the top.) Visiting artists uncover new techniques working with Weidman and fellow visitors, and community members learn more about the artists’ represented countries.
Clark became involved more than 10 years ago when she opened her home to a Cambodian artist. She remembers his shocking, honest stories about wartime experiences at home.
“Sadly, a lot of artists come from war-torn countries. So when they create pieces about war, love … It takes on a more personal meaning,” Clark said.
The park, Clark said, has been called a “hidden gem” many times. It currently contains 70 fixtures. Swarms of first-time visitors often come in with little or no awareness the sculpture park existed. For better access, more signs have been installed throughout the park and snowmobile trails have expanded.
“We continually hear it. People come up to the studio and say, ‘I’ve driven past here the last 11 years, and I’ve finally decided to come up and take a look,’” said Peter Cook, a volunteer organizer, in a phone interview. “It’s amazing how many people can show up for the first time and say, ‘I live a mile away and had no idea this was in my backyard.’ … People refer to it as a hidden gem, but I think it’s too well-hidden.”
As seen in the October 2, 2014 issue of the Hippo.