Small Town, Big Art
Chiseled limestone figures, painted steel garden gates, a kneeling glass-block man, a weathered-steel dancing
woman and a plethora of other unique sculptures pose along a paved path circling a lake in Williams Park in Gibsonburg, a town located midway between Fremont and Bowling Green. There's even a flying fish sculpture jumping out of the lake, playing with its own mirrored reflection below.
The year-long sculpture exhibition, which features 33 works by an eclectic mix of artists from Ohio and other Midwest states, might not be what one would expect to find in a small village with one traffic light. But Sculpture in the Village was organized and curated by James Havens, an ex-marine, retired ironworker and sculptor who set up his studio in Gibsonburg in 1984. He became well-known in the community when he cast a bronze statue of a kneeling chaplain for the town's Veterans Memorial in 2004. It wasn't long before members of the community were asking him to display more of his work in the park.
"I said I thought it would be pretty boring," Havens recalls, "but what if I had some of my friends put their sculptures in the park and I put some of mine in the park?" From such small beginnings, the annual sculpture show was born.
With the Toledo Area Sculptors Guild and the Gibsonburg Community Corporation each donating funds, many volunteers soon came onboard to help establish the show. Havens invited sculptor friends, students from the sculpture courses he taught at Owens Community College, and artists from the mailing lists of the Cleveland Sculpture Center, the Toledo Arts Commission, and the Art Round Town sculpture exhibit in Saugatuck, Michigan, to submit their work for consideration. Twenty-eight pieces were selected by Havens and the Toledo Area Sculptors Guild to exhibit in the first show, which ran June 2005 through May 2006.
The show was such a success that Havens and the town decided to do it again. This year's exhibit opened on June 10 and included a reception where three awards were bestowed by the Toledo Area Sculptors Guild, the Gibsonburg Community Cor-poration and the mayor, as well as a people's choice selection. The sculptures can be viewed through next May.
"Everybody's jumping in and taking part," enthuses Gibsonburg's mayor, Edward Herman, Jr., of the show and its setting in the park. A volunteer committee plants and maintains trees; another tends to flower beds. A donated fountain in the park comes on at 3 p.m. every day. And a waterfall made possible through donations decorates the lake.
"Any sculptor, once they see this setting, the lake and the trees and the grass and how it's done, will be delighted to come out to Gibsonburg," says Havens.
Visitors will be just as pleased.
| Williams Park
Main Street, Village of Gibsonburg
Daily 7 a.m.-11 p.m.
For more information, call 800/255-8070 or visit www.sanduskycounty.org.