By Bonnie Gangelhoff
The small town of Loveland, Colorado, is nestled against a backdrop of the majestic Rocky Mountains. Since the 1970s, this picturesque city has been known as a sculpture mecca, attracting artists and collectors from across the country. The National Sculpture Society in New York recently declared Loveland the “Sculpture Capital of America.” The town has also been featured in the book The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America by John Villani.
Two annual sculpture shows—Sculpture in the Park and the Loveland Sculpture Invitational—have a lot to do with the city’s arty reputation. Both shows take place on the same weekend every year and attract nearly 25,000 visitors. This year they are scheduled for the weekend of August 7-8.
Sculpture in the Park, presented by the Loveland High Plains Arts Council, is the older of the two events. It was founded in 1984 by a group of local sculptors who joined forces with the chamber of commerce, city officials, and a number of interested citizens to gain recognition for Loveland’s growing sculpture community.
“They wanted to promote all the different art businesses here, including the foundries and peripheral businesses like mold-making,” says Polly Juneau, board member of the Loveland High Plains Arts Council. “We were becoming an arts community [back then], but people didn’t know about us yet. The founders decided a juried show would be great way to promote all the different things we do in Loveland.”
The city’s Benson Park was designated as the official site for the event. Fifty artists participated that first year, and the show sold $50,000 worth of sculpture. Today the show features 170 sculptors and chalks up $1 million in annual sales. Among this year’s participating artists are Carol Gold (at right), Bob Boomer, Jeannine Young, Kathleen Sherman, and Curt Theobald. Each year part of the proceeds goes toward purchasing sculpture for permanent installation in Benson Park, which is now home to 130 pieces placed along paths that wind by tranquil ponds and through lush grounds landscaped with trees and flowers. Benson Sculpture Garden is open to the public throughout the year.
The Loveland Sculpture Invitational was the brainchild of Victor Issa and several other sculptors, including George Lundeen, who decided that a second show was needed, in part, to accommodate increasing interest from artists and collectors. In 1991, Issa and Lundeen spread the word about the new sculpture event, which attracted 180 artists.
The show takes place across the street from Benson Park near Loveland High School, and visitors can conveniently attend both events. “The Loveland Sculpture Invitational has varied in size over the years, but we have always wanted to keep it simple, stick to our original mission to expand sculpture opportunities for artists, and present a diversity of talent and skills,” says Issa. Jim Gilmore, Siri Hollander, Mark Hopkins, Jerry McKellar, and Joshua Tobey are among this year’s participating artists.
Issa relates that he moved to Loveland from Nebraska on the advice of Lundeen. At the time, he was traveling to his Loveland foundry, Art Castings of Colorado, several times a month. One day Lundeen said to him, “If you are serious about sculpture, you need to live here in Loveland.” Issa heeded the advice. According to Issa, the fact that two world-class foundries—Art Castings (founded in 1972) and Bronze Services Fine Art Foundry (established in 1989)—are based in Loveland has contributed to the city becoming a premier sculpture destination. Like Issa, many sculptors have moved to the area to be close to the foundries.
A portion of the proceeds from the Loveland Sculpture Invitational is donated to Loveland area art education programs. “Over the years it comes to about $100,000,” says Issa, “and we have received so much gratitude from the teachers and students.” Like Sculpture in the Park, the Invitational offers collectors the unique opportunity to meet the sculptors, and artists also get the chance to connect with each other. This year Issa says he plans to facilitate the networking by putting a couch and coffee table in his booth.
Sculpture in the Park and the Loveland Sculpture Invitational are open to the public on Saturday, August 7, from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday, August 8, from 9:30 to 4:30. For more information about Sculpture in the Park: 970.663.2940 or www.sculptureinthepark.org. For more information about the Loveland Sculpture Invitational: 970.663.7467 or www.lovelandsculpturegroup.org.
Featured in July 2010