Kira Garden showcases sculpture by Upper Valley artists
A sliver of sunlight gleamed off “Arabesque,” created by Michael Kraatz and Susan Russell of Canaan. The stained glass reflected the reds and greens of the nearby ceramic plants. A small patch of purple flowers had sprung up next to the sculpture, their bright petals contrasting against the rusted steel framing the glass. A small group of bees buzzed around the overturned bird house sculpture a few yards away, made by Campton’s Phil Lonergan.
These works of art are currently on display in Kira’s Garden, an outdoor sculpture garden at the Alliance for the Visual Arts Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon. “Arabesque” joins nearly a dozen other works of art in the Garden, each of which was submitted by an Upper Valley artist.
Kira’s Garden was a gift from Benjamin Schore, and he dedicated the space to his wife, Kira Fournier Schore, who passed away in 2002. AVA executive director Bente Torjusen said that Kira Schore was a well-known sculptor in the Upper Valley, and that the couple had both been long-time supporters of the arts in the Upper Valley.
After his wife’s death, Benjamin Schore approached the gallery’s directors with the idea of creating a sculpture garden in her name. While the garden was originally created in 2008, several construction projects delayed the ultimate progress of the exhibition space.
AVA exhibition coordinator Margaret Jacobs ’08 said that while the garden has seen a successful summer, it began slowly when the initial opening of the exhibit was rained out and had to be rescheduled. Jacobs said that this marks the second year the gallery has placed a large call for submissions from artists.
As the gardens are an outdoor exhibit, Jacobs said the weather is a constant factor for the display of the exhibition. Because Hanover often receives extreme weather, some of the works cannot be displayed year-round. Other pieces, Jacobs said, are left in the garden so viewers can the environment’s effects on art.
“We like to leave sculpture out so that viewers can come in the fall the winter and there’s still the option to see stuff something beautiful,” she said. “The work interacts with the environment in a different way when there’s a foot of snow on the ground.”
Torjusen said the unpredictable and often harsh weather adds to the majesty of an outdoor art space, recalling a specific example of the effects a snowy day followed by a warm day had on a sculpture of a poem carved into a tree trunk.
“When it just began to melt in the morning hours, the poem stood out against the white and it was incredibly striking,” she said.
This combination of the art and its environment is a new development for AVA gallery, which did not have an outdoor space prior to Kira’s Garden.
Once accepted into the exhibition, the pieces remain on display for one year. Jacobs said the idea behind the Garden was to provide a constant rotation of works to display different artists from the area.
“We’re a community gallery, but we show a lot of different levels of community artists,” she said. “Some artists are seen here, become a hit and get picked up to show in places such as Provincetown or Boston,” she said.
Sue Katz of Meriden, whose sculpture “Botanical Invention” is currently on display in the Garden, said this community of local artists is one of the greatest parts of working with the gallery.
“When I first moved here from New York state, I discovered AVA gallery and started getting involved immediately,” she said. “I met a lot of other local artists there. It’s been a great place to show my work and meet others in the area who are working on similar projects.”
Sculpture allows artists to experiment in ways that “indoor” mediums like painting and drawing don’t always let you do, she said.
“It’s a cool thing to show because it’s a little less formal than inside of the gallery, so you can be a little bit more playful, you can take different kinds of risks,” Jacobs said.
The addition of a sculpture garden aligns with the Gallery’s mission of helping community members appreciate art, Victoria Nevel ’16, who worked at the AVA Gallery during high school, said.
The gallery plans to expand its sculpture division, recently buying more property across the parking lot to house a sculpture workshop. There are also several green roofs and other patches of grass that could contain sculptures in the near future.
“The word is getting out that we’re a place that can show outdoor pieces on a rotating basis,” Jacobs said.