Central Jersey’s fascination with sculpture is coming to Lawrence in a big way in the next few months. The large grassy area at the back of Weeden Park on Main Street in Lawrence will be transformed into a pop-up sculpture park with the installation of about a dozen sculptures crafted in various materials.
Local residents and members of the Board of Directors of Lawrenceville Main Street worked with creators from the Artists of the Motor Exhibit Building to bring the concept to fruition.
The artists, working at the repurposed Motor Exhibit Building, once part of the Trenton State Fairgrounds, at Grounds for Sculpture were excited at the prospect, visiting the site to look at the possibility of installing one or two sculptures. The project quickly picked up steam with the realization that the area is large enough for a dozen or more pieces of art.
LMS board members Angelo Stio, Phoenix Smith, Theresa Wrobel, and Stacy Mann, along with Margareta Warlick representing the AMEBA group, have each had a hand in the initial planning steps needed to bring new examples of this ancient art form to Lawrenceville for all to enjoy, tucked into the heart of town.
Sculpture is generally defined as the branch of art that exists in three dimensions. Many sculptors encourage touching of their creations in the hope that the observer will better understand the work by the sensory experience of both the entire work, as well as the feel of the tool marks embedded in the sculpture, particularly if the piece is made of stone.
There was little time for sculpture in the early days of Lawrenceville, or in most of the colonies at that time. When the majority of the hours in a day were involved with farming, housekeeping, childrearing, running small vital businesses and providing for hearth and home, art in any form was not generally looked upon as a way of life.
Sculpture in the colonies in the days before the Revolutionary War tended to exist mostly in the occasional highly crafted tombstone, figureheads for ships, and signs or figures displayed outside a shop, giving some indication of what was sold or crafted inside. Times have indeed changed, though, and current Lawrenceville residents will soon have an opportunity to enjoy modern interpretations of this ancient art form.
Today, more than two million Americans list their primary occupation as artist and while many would say they are not getting wealthy from art, they share one statistic in higher numbers than all other Americans. Only 56 percent of all college graduates work in the field for which they studied, compared to 74 percent of those who graduated from an art program.
Weeden Park, sitting on land owned by the Lawrenceville School, provides a quiet oasis of calm just a block or so south of the village-like commercial center of town. With a gazebo for concerts on summer evenings, as well as a natural stopping place for the annual visit of Santa and Mrs. Claus on a December Sunday afternoon, the park also includes several benches for quiet contemplation, two examples of pop-up libraries where people can take or leave a book, and many opportunities to just watch the squirrels and listen to the birds.
“This partnership with the Artists of the Motor Exhibit Building at Grounds for Sculpture is huge for Lawrenceville Main Street,” Kelly Edelstein, Executive Director of LMS said. “We are so excited to bring art to our already vibrant downtown.”
Spearheading the effort to get artists and their works into the Weeden Park installation is Margareta Warlick who started as a volunteer at GFS, eventually working her way into a staff position. She is now a teacher and resident artist at AMEBA.
“I took this on with Gyuri Hollósy at AMEBA and Angelo Stio of LMS,” Warlick said. As the project has evolved, she is now acting as the liaison between the artists and LMS to see this through to the final installation. “It’s taken more than a year, but it’s coming together now.”
One of Warlick’s sculptures, titled “Orgone” is a mirrored pyramid meant to interact with the natural surroundings, drawing the viewer in to see the landscape reflected in the mirrored panes, while also enjoying the actual landscape in front of the eyes. Warlick has been an artist for 15 years working in several media including puppetry, silk and cellulose, spinning, weaving, and flower design. She has exhibited and picked up class wins for the last several years at the Philadelphia Flower Show.
AMEBA is a group of independent artists with studios at the Motor Hall Exhibit Building at Grounds for Sculpture (GFS). While GFS does not have a direct involvement with the Weeden Park sculpture installation, artists working at AMEBA regularly interact with other artists and visitors to GFS to sustain the study of the arts, to encourage understanding of the arts, and as a vibrant way of showing human expression. The artists—representing varied educational and professional backgrounds—work as sculptors, as well as working in a variety of other art media.
Lawrenceville School Director of Public Relations Lisa Gillard says, “The Lawrenceville School joined with local residents in 1996 to create LMS, collaborating with volunteers since then to foster economic vitality. LMS has done a tremendous job in turning part of the School’s property into Weeden Park, now a community-gathering place for Lawrence Township residents. The Sculpture in the Park exhibit will be a tremendous addition to Weeden Park, allowing residents to enjoy world-class art right in their backyards.”
Stio and Phoenix shepherded the project through Lawrence Township’s Planning Board with Wrobel and Mann now leading the way for LMS toward the actual installation of the artworks.
Wrobel noted that the artists are loaning their work for the park and many of the sculptures will be for sale. Sculptures will be available for viewing anytime in the open park. The official grand opening of the pop-up sculpture park will be in May, with residents free to walk the grounds and enjoy the art throughout the fall, winter, and spring leading up to the grand opening.
“The sculptors are really excited about having their work in the park,” Wrobel said.
Individual works of art are expected to be onsite for about a year. With installations slated to begin in October, there may be some fluidity with sculptures if something is sold and needs to be replaced.
“If this is really well received by the community, the project may be continued,” Mann said. “We hope this will start a celebration of the arts in the village. We’re hoping for workshops with artists and artist involvement with other community events.”
The exact mix of artists and their work has not been determined yet. Some technical aspects will be handled in late September and early October, such as placement of security cameras and necessary electrical work by outside contractors. AMEBA will be working with experts who will volunteer their services to actually place the sculptures.
Gillard, speaking for the Lawrenceville School, said “This is a new opportunity, so our teachers and students will have to see the pieces and discover how the Park might fit into the Visual Arts curriculum, but we are hopeful that this public art installation becomes a destination for and is enjoyed by everyone in the community.”
Wrobel and Mann both expressed interest in working with local schools to feature the artworks in their curriculum. “We certainly want to involve the school art programs and we are having talks with teachers about involving students or the schools in the May 2019 program. We hope this inspires a lot of community involvement,” Wrobel said.
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Lawrenceville Main Street has a full slate of activities for October in addition to the initial steps for installing the sculptures. Residents can join their neighbors for Scarecrows and Music in the Park in Weeden Park on October 14th, featuring live music from Lawrenceville’s own legendary group, The Beagles. Residents can bring old clothing to create their own work of art by making a scarecrow to decorate Main Street. LMS will provide hay to fill your scarecrow and lots of space for creativity. Scarecrows will be judged with the top three winning a prize for their creators.
LMS will sponsor a Ghost tours program in late October. Check the LMS website at lawrencevillemainstreet.com for exact dates to be announced. Bring a warm scarf and a close friend while you learn the history of Lawrenceville and tour local haunted sites on foot. This program will feature a special dessert and mulled cider, courtesy of Gingered Peach.
Both events are the start of the year of programming Lawrenceville Main Street will run to celebrate the installation of Sculpture in the Park and their year of art and culture. Coming events will include the Winter Arts Market, Community Valentine Making Party, and the grand opening of the Sculpture in the Park in May.