Hopewell Valley Arts Council planning pop-up events, Explorer’s Guide with life-size sculptures throughout Hopewell Valley
Months of work, planning, and fundraising have culminated in 11 J. Seward Johnson II life-size sculptures throughout Hopewell Valley.
The final two sculptures from the late artist, who passed away in 2020, were installed at Brick Farm Market and Washington Crossing State Park. All of the sculptures are part of a large year-long art project celebrating Johnson and his work.
“It was a lot of work, but what is gratifying is hearing all the stories and seeing the pictures people are sending in,” said Carol Lipson, executive director of Hopewell Valley (HV) Arts Council. “Whether you like the sculptures as a piece of art or not, seeing how people engage with them is really what Seward was all about.”
The sculptures just start a dialogue, even if they just get people talking to one another or reminiscing about something the sculptures remind them of, she said.
“Seward Johnson | Celebrating the Everyday” has brought 11 sculptures to Hopewell Valley temporarily through partnerships between the HV Arts Council, The Johnson Atelier, D&R Greenway, a grant from the Atlantic Foundation, donations and community fundraising.
“Seward Johnson’s sister, Elaine J. Wold, made a large donation to make up the difference on fundraising, which was really a great unexpected gift,” Lipson said.
There are life-size sculptures portraying people doing regular everyday things and a 70-foot-wide sculpture called The Awakening installed in Hopewell Township, Hopewell Borough, and Pennington.
The Awakening, which is set in the ground at D&R Greenway’s St. Michaels Farm Preserve and depicts a giant man anchored in the Earth who struggles to free himself, will be on the preserve for more than a year.
“To have something that profound of piece in our little town is really special,” Lipson said.
The other sculptures are temporarily in Hopewell Valley for six months as an exhibit.
When people walk on the grounds of the school district schools, they are able to engage with four of the sculptures.
Can We Dance Here, Mommy? resides at Stony Brook Elementary, Follow the Leader has a home at Bear Tavern Elementary, My World was installed on the grounds of Toll Gate Grammar School, There Now You Can Grow has been placed at Hopewell Elementary and the Keep Life in Balance sculpture is located between Timberlane Middle School and Hopewell Valley Central High School.
“We did not get them in until [the] day before the end of school, so the students did not have a whole lot of time with them,” Lipson said. “But I’m anxious to see to the engagement from students at the high school with the Albert Einstein Keep Life in Balance sculpture.”
The Arts Council will try to engage the students with pop-up activities such as getting a juggler to teach people how to juggle or an Einstein impersonator.
Lipson added that it has been fun to come up with pop-up ideas for the sculptures.
Johnson’s sculptures not located on school grounds include: Wine, Food, and Thou at Brick Farm Market in Hopewell, Monet, Our Visiting Artist at Washington Crossing State Park in Titusville, Captured at Howe Commons in Pennington, Time’s Up at 1 N. Main St. in Pennington, Bake Sale located in front of the Old School Baptist Church and Meeting House in Hopewell Borough.
“We still have a lot of work to do because even though the 11 sculptures are out, we have a whole summer and fall of activities surrounding the celebration and the sculptures,” Lipson said.
On the HV Arts Council website there is an online interactive map that can help you navigate where each of the sculptures are located that can also be downloaded and printed for people who choose to engage with the sculptures through their own self-guided tour.
“Just like with oxen, people like to drive around and find them all,” Lipson said.
The HV Arts Council is planning events for the coming months surrounding the sculptures including pop-up activities for each sculpture, three art exhibitions, a photo contest, two “take home” projects, an online Explorer’s Guide, and a downloadable driving map, according to the HV Arts Council.
Lipson said the Explorer’s Guide has a series of prompts for each sculpture.
“[It’s] just a different way for people to not only talk to each other but unlock their own creativity a little bit in the process,” she said.
“For example, the one sculpture with the little girl reading a book called My World, look at the book and what was your favorite book or if you were going to finish the story that the little girl is reading what could be the end of the story?”
There are also fun facts included in the Explorer’s Guide about the places where the sculptures are located throughout Hopewell Valley.
One of the art exhibitions will be held at Gallery 14 in Hopewell Borough, named Radius 14: Celebrating Our Local Artists, in August. The exhibition will showcase artwork by artists residing within a 14-mile radius of Hopewell Valley.
An opening reception will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Aug. 10 and run select days and times between Aug. 10 to 20.
“We are working to make sure people engage with [the sculptures] for the six months and not just drive by them,” Lipson said.
For more information about Seward Johnson II’s sculptures in Hopewell Valley or upcoming events and activities for “Seward Johnson | Celebrating the Everyday”, visit www.hvartscouncil.org.