Sculpture park in search for a good home

Nineteen monumental stone carvings could be gifted to a Central Alberta community that commits to creating a sculpture park.

Nineteen monumental stone carvings could be gifted to a Central Alberta community that commits to creating a sculpture park.

Sculptor and arts investor Morton Burke is pledging to donate the mammoth sculptures that are now sitting on his Bergen acreage to an interested city or town — provided he first gets his costs recouped through a public Kickstarter campaign.

Burke estimates each sculpture, created during four years of international stone carvings symposiums on his property, cost him about $15,000 in out-of-pocket expenses.

These include the honorariums he gave to the renowned artists who came from across the globe, as well as their accommodations, tools and raw materials.

The oilfield worker did receive a couple of grants to help him host the symposiums between 2008 and 2012. And a businessman sponsored three sculptures, which have already been re-installed in the Cobb’s Block Central mall in Sylvan Lake. But Burke estimates he personally forked out a total of $285,000 for the symposiums.

He made this investment because he believes in the artistry and the tourism draw of sculpture parks, and was hoping that some Alberta communities would too.

After participating as a sculptor in “sculpture symposia” in other countries, the Bergen resident felt that such events should be hosted in Canada. But he couldn’t convince any Alberta centres to take up the idea, and after five years of trying, he decided to do it himself at his Bergen acreage.

Burke admitted he would love to hold more symposiums, but first needs to recoup his investment, “or the soup will be pretty thin.”

His Kickstarter campaign (under Bergen Sculpture Park) requests that at least $75,000 be raised from the public by July 9. This would free him up to give the first five sculptures to a community that expresses interest and lives up to criteria he has established. This includes putting aside an appropriate piece of land for a sculpture park.

Burke said several communities have already expressed interest, including Innisfail.

Pat Matheson, public art co-ordinator for the City of Red Deer, wants to find out more about the offer. Matheson has been to Burke’s property several times to see the impressive sculptures carved by world-class artists, and feels “it would be amiss” if he didn’t check out whether Red Deer could qualify for getting the sculptural donation.

Not only would a mutually agreeable location have to be established for the sculpture park, but Matheson said a public art commission would also have to determine whether to go ahead with the project that would add considerably to the city’s art maintenance budget.

Burke doesn’t want to sell the sculptures piecemeal to recoup his investment. He maintains that a sculpture park could be a huge tourist draw for a centre off a major highway. Considering that 200-300 persons per month in the summer came out to see the sculptures on his remote property at the end of a dead-end road, Burke believes thousands of people would travel to a nearby community to see original sculptures.

There’s no way to track which communities Kickstarter donors are from, but he hopes there are enough art lovers in Central Alberta who are willing to donate because they believe in the concept of sculpture parks and the benefits of having them in the region.

The sculptures can be viewed on his blog: mortonsculpting.blogspot.com.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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