‘The Awakening’ to open on St. Michaels Preserve

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Seward Johnson II’s work is not only on display nationwide, but internationally in countries such as Spain and Germany

One of the late Seward Johnson II’s well-known works called “The Awakening” has a temporary new home in Hopewell Township.

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The 70-foot-wide aluminum sculpture, which depicts a giant man fixed deeply in the ground who struggles to free himself from the Earth, now resides at the D&R Greenway’s St. Michaels Preserve in Hopewell Township.

“Seward Johnson is an internationally recognized and celebrated artist. To have a piece of this caliber right in our town is pretty spectacular and unusual,” said Carol Lipson, executive director of the Hopewell Valley Arts Council.

Through a partnership the Hopewell Valley Arts Council and The Johnson Atelier are hosting an opening ceremony unveiling the “The Awakening” sculpture at the preserve on May 21 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“There are so many ways of looking at the sculpture” Lipson said. “Some people look at it as this poor guy was living under the ground and it was so beautiful, where we live here and he wanted to come up and experience it.”

Lipson added that other people have looked at the sculpture as a reminder of responsibility – people getting over their individual struggles and trying to look more hopeful into the future.

People attending the opening ceremony will be given a booklet and get a chance to stop and think about what the sculpture means to them.

“The Awakening” is committed to be a St. Michaels Preserve for 18 months with an opportunity to extend that commitment.

There will be performance art around the sculpture that day called “Every Day We Awaken.”

“It is about everyone having to find their own personal awakening,” Lipson said. “Local artists will be doing the performances. Those artists are Michael J. Love, Tomia MacQueen, Sattriya Dance Company, Maiko Uchida, Ann Robideaux, and donia salem harhoor.”

The relocation and installation of “The Awakening” to St. Michaels Preserve is one of the major pieces of a year-long art project in Hopewell Valley called “Seward Johnson | Celebrating the Everyday,” which honors Johnson’s life and many works.

“Seward just wanted people to interact. He wanted his artwork to be the starting point for dialogue and getting people out of their houses,” Lipson said. “Mr. Johnson used to sit somewhere near his sculptures and watch the people interact with them.”

The celebration of Johnson life and life-size works comes three years after he passed away in 2020 at the age of 89.

His work is not only on display nationwide, but internationally in countries such as Spain and Germany.

The Arts Council has been working to raise funds to bring 14 of Johnson’s life-size sculptures to Hopewell Valley that would be placed throughout the valley for a six-month exhibit.

As of now, it seems that they are thinking that the number instead might end up being 10 of Sewards sculptures in the valley, according to Lipson.

There is a plan for sculptures at the each of the schools in the school district, two in Hopewell, two in Pennington and one in Washington Crossing State Park.

“That is what we are shooting for now,” Lipson said.

One of Johnson’s life-size sculptures called “Bake Sale” has already been installed in Hopewell Borough in front of the Old School Baptist Church and Meeting House. The installation of the sculpture was sponsored by Kefi Godfrey of Compass Real Estate.

This week they are installing a police officer called “Time’s Up” at the intersection of Delaware Avenue and Main Street in Pennington and another called “Captured,” which is going to Howe Commons in Pennington for Pennington Day.

The installations portray people doing mundane moments in life. They will be installed in high visibility locations in Hopewell Borough, Pennington, Titusville, and Hopewell Township.

“Outside of the primary reason of celebrating and honoring Seward’s life and impact, the secondary reason we are raising money for his life-like sculptures is to try to bring more foot traffic to our local businesses,” Lipson said. “These statutes are going to go where there are small businesses, in downtown Pennington, and in downtown Hopewell Borough.”

The plan is for five of the bronze life-size sculptures on school grounds between Timberlane Middle School [TMS] and Hopewell Valley Central High School [HVCHS], and at Hopewell Elementary, Bear Tavern Elementary, Tollgate Elementary, and Stony Brook Elementary.

Johnson’s “Keep Life in Balance” sculpture will be placed between TMS and HVCHS; “There Now You Can Grow” will be placed at Hopewell Elementary; “Follow the Leader” will be placed at Bear Tavern, “My World” will be placed on the grounds of Toll Gate; and “Can We Dance Here, Mommy?” will be installed at Stony Brook.

For more information about the year-long art project, “The Awakening” or to donate, visit www.hvartscouncil.org

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