By Joe Johnson
The first annual Sculpture Walk at Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock was a resounding success this past weekend with over 2000 people attending the events held from August 9 to August 11.
Chetola Resort’s lakeside setting provided the perfect outdoor venue for the Sculpture Walk; 60 sculptors from around the country, even from as far as Puerto Rico, gathered at Chetola Resort this past weekend to showcase their sculptures around Chetola Lake. The sculptures were on display throughout the weekend and Dr. Lawrence J. Wheeler, distinguished juror and retired CEO and Director of the North Carolina Museum of Art, chose several winners out of the competitors displaying their artworks to receive cash prizes. Sculptors were present at the event to answer questions about their artwork and all proceeds from the event benefited the sculptors.
The Sculpture Walk included various features to supplement the walk itself, including bars and food stands surrounding the lake, prosecco and bourbon tasting, and a cash bar at the end of the Sculpture Walk. Events kicked off on Friday night with an official ribbon cutting ceremony led by renowned artist Brenda Councill, Chair and Organizer of the Sculpture Walk. Art Icons Bob Timberlake and Joe Miller hosted Friday night’s events titled “Prosecco and Painting/Bourbon and Brushes- Tasting Spirits and Talking Art” which included an illuminated sculpture walk, flights of prosecco or bourbon, hors d’oeurves, a bonfire, and live music highlighting the event. The Friday night events were attended by several notable guests of the High County region such as Kent and Greg Tarbutton, proprietors of Chetola Resort, Cherry Johnson, Executive Director of the Watauga Arts Council, Lindsay Miller, Director of Donor Relations at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, Deanna Ballard, N.C. Senator of the 45th district, Justice Paul Newby of the N.C. Supreme Court, and Charlie Sellers, Mayor of Blowing Rock.
Saturday’s events involved a “Starry Night Celebration and Awards Ceremony” which included a dinner and dancing under the stars to the music of the 16 piece orchestra known as The Starlighters. The event also included an awards ceremony during which Dr. Lawrence J. Wheeler announced his picks for the winners of the Sculpture Walk Competition. Best of Show was awarded to Susan Moffat who took home a $2500 reward for her sculpture. 1st Place winner Beau Lyday won $1500, 2nd Place winner Joe Bigley won $750, 3rd Place winner Mike Roig won $500, and Honorable Mentions Michael Rodriguez, Mary Ann Prack, and Devin Devine each took home $100 for their exceptional sculptures. A kids’ tent was also included in Saturday’s events, featuring a collaborative artwork made by children using squirt guns filled with paint to create a Jackson Pollock style, large-scale work of art.
Brenda Councill introduced the idea for the Sculpture Walk to Ken and Greg Tarbutton, proprietors of Chetola Resort, earlier this year. Councill came up with the idea for the Sculpture Walk as a way to increase the cultural assets of the Blowing Rock area and increase the awareness of large-scale public artworks. “The Sculpture Walk exceeded all of our expectations,” said Councill, “We were pleasantly surprised with the crowds on Friday and Saturday. People were so enamored with the Sculpture Walk, the variety of the art, and the large-scale artwork installations. Dr. Lawrence J. Wheeler stated that it was the best sculpture walk he had attended in the entire country! The Sculpture Walk really came to fruition just how I had visualized it; I knew Chetola Lake would be a great spot to display large and mid-scale work. I have been receiving calls and emails all day urging me to organize a Sculpture Walk again next year as well. We are all on board to do the Sculpture Walk again next year, so next year will be our second annual Sculpture Walk at Chetola.”
Councill emphasized the support the Sculpture Walk received from various sponsors and organizations around the local community. Councill thanked the “Michelangelo Marble” level donors who donated at least $2000 to the event; these donors include Norma and Jack Suddreth, Eric and Diane Overcash, Art Patron JHW, and the Chetola Resort. Various other donors contributed to the event as well. Councill also emphasized the support the Sculpture Walk received from the Watauga Arts Council and its Executive Director, Cherry Johnson. “The Watauga Arts Council I give a great deal of credit to; I came to Cherry Johnson, the Executive Director of the Council, early on and asked her what she thought about the idea of the Sculpture Walk and she loved it,” said Councill, “Through a North Carolina Arts Council grant, I was able to get this event off the ground. We are so grateful for the grassroots funds that are available through the N.C. Arts Council.”
Kent Tarbutton stated that the Chetola Resort was incredibly pleased with the outcome of the Sculpture walk and credited Brenda Councill as the driving force of the event. “It’s amazing to be out here and see this much incredible art,” said Tarbutton, “There are some ingenious pieces out here and you rarely get to see this many pieces out on a lawn; usually you would have to be in a museum. What a special night it is that you would share this with us and with all the artists that are giving us this opportunity to appreciate their artworks. I just want to say that this event would not have happened without Brenda Councill; she brought this idea to Greg and I and she’s done everything! All the layout, all the hard work; our staff members did a lot of hard work as well but the ideas and the work really came from Brenda.”
The first annual Sculpture Walk at Chetola Resort was immensely successful and Brenda Councill hopes that the local community will get on board with the Sculpture Walk and the message of integrating large-scale public art within the community for all to appreciate. “I would love to see some of these large-scale artworks along Valley Boulevard, along the greenway,” said Councill, “I’d like for businesses and companies to sponsor installations of large-scale artwork; I like the idea that it’s easily accessible when you pass a piece of public art, inevitably there are comments about it. It engages you at that moment when you see a piece of public art along a highway or in a public square; that experience is the idea behind the Sculpture Walk. I’m trying to increase the awareness of placing significant public art in our area.”
Photos from Lonnie Webster: