The Hippo


Aug 20, 2019








Returning sculptor Tony Jimenez works at the Nashua International Sculpture Symposium. Courtesy photo.

In the making
International sculptors create public art for Nashua


 By Angie Sykeny 
Nashua will soon have three new pieces of public art, and you can watch them being created during the Nashua International Sculpture Symposium, an event that invites artists from around the world to spend three weeks in Nashua, working on sculptures that will be permanently placed around the city. 
Now in its 11th year, the Nashua International Sculpture Symposium is the only annual international sculpture symposium in the U.S. that is held in a city, with sculptures placed on public property. It was inspired by a similar event, the Andres Institute of Art International Sculpture Symposium, held in Brookline every fall. 
“When I saw the quality of the art [at the AIA symposium], the variety and diversity, and the fact that it touched on all these cultures with artists from around the world, I thought it would be a great project to bring to Nashua,” symposium co-chair Kathy Hersh said. 
From May 14 through May 30, the artists will work six days a week at MakeIt Labs on Crown Street, where the public is invited to interact with them, learn about their native cultures and see how a large-scale sculpture is made. The artists stay with volunteer host families in Nashua; other residents volunteer to provide transportation and meals for the artists. 
“This isn’t just about adding art to the city. It’s about the practice of creating that art in a very personal and community-oriented way,” Hersh said. “We want people to get involved, to get to know the sculptors, and to talk to them about what they’re creating.” 
This year’s artists are Carina Fabano from Argentina, Tom Allan from Scotland and Tony Jimenez from Costa Rica. Past symposiums have featured artists from Vietnam, Egypt, Czech Republic, Israel, Cuba, Italy, France, Korea, Lithuania, Venezuela and other countries. The third symposium, held in 2010, was opened to New England artists, but the organizers felt that it lacked the same spirit of community and decided to limit all future symposiums to international artists. 
“The international component is critical,” Hersh said. “[The 2010 symposium] was still a great symposium, but since a lot of the artists lived in Nashua, they had a tendency to just go home. They didn’t need host families, and that changed the whole dynamic.” 
The artists were chosen by artistic director John Weidman, who is also a sculptor and the co-founder and director of the Andres Institute of Art. Weidman looks for talented emerging artists or people who teach art but aren’t currently making a living selling their art, for whom the symposium would be an opportunity to learn and grow. 
“We work hard to make this a unique experience for them,” Hersh said. “It’s a cultural experience because they get to stay in people’s homes and get to know the city … and it’s a learning experience, because part of John’s goal is to teach them new skills.” 
The artists are given a choice between stone, usually granite, or metal, usually steel, to create their sculptures, and can offer their input on where in the city they’d like their sculptures to be installed. The design is completely up to them, barring a few restrictions like no violence, nudity or religious or political content. They can do an abstract piece or something more literal; past sculptures have included a Latino bus, a mother and child, an ascending Egyptian turtle, an homage to Frank Lloyd Wright and more. Weidman works with the artists beforehand to help them develop a model of their design, but there is flexibility for them to change it if the inspiration strikes. Most importantly, the sculptures must be safe for people to touch and climb on. 
“These are not the type of sculptures that you see in a place with a sign that says, ‘Fragile. Don’t touch,’” Hersh said. “These are meant to be touched. We want people to feel how the sculptor created it.” 
An opening reception will be held on Thursday, May 10, at Nashua Airport, to welcome and introduce the artists. There will be performances honoring each artist’s native culture, including a bagpipe player for Scotland, a tango dance for Argentina and a dance for Costa Rica during which the audience will be invited to join in. 
For the closing ceremony on Saturday, June 2, attendees will meet at City Hall, where trolleys will take them to see the sculptures unveiled at their permanent sites. 

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