While the novel coronavirus has posed a major threat to arts organizations across the world, the folks at Anderson Ranch used the opportunity to turn a longtime dream into a reality.
Anderson Ranch Arts Center last week quietly debuted a new outdoor exhibition, titled “Sculpturally Distanced,” featuring 17 sculptures from a group of world-renowned local, national and international artists.
“We’ve been wanting to do something like this for a long time,” said Katherine Roberts, Anderson Ranch’s director of marketing and communication, while leading a tour of the exhibition on Monday. In the week since the exhibition’s “soft opening,” she estimated that about 100 people have checked out the sculptures across the ranch’s five-acre campus.
This exhibition, which will be on display through September 2021, marks the 54-year-old institution’s first en plein air show. While the ranch has planned to curate an outdoor exhibition for a number of years, Roberts said the pandemic enabled staff to “move forward with it more aggressively.”
“This sculpture installation is one of the most exciting changes to the ranch campus in years,” Anderson Ranch president and CEO Peter Waanders said in a statement.
All told, Anderson Ranch brought the concept to life in about a month. On June 1, longtime local art curator Lissa Ballinger joined the ranch on a part-time basis to help execute “Sculpturally Distanced.”
The exhibition demonstrates “the necessity of arts organizations and artists to be nimble and willing to change course and act quickly,” Ballinger said.
She acknowledged equally the artists’ notable efforts to submit proposals and deliver their work within a matter of weeks.
The town of Snowmass also helped the ranch staff swiftly install the 14 sculptures (one of which weighs 2,000 pounds). Ballinger called the endeavor “community collaboration at its best.”
The exhibition also is unique in that the lineup of artists is so diverse.
“The artists are all completely different,” Roberts said. “Their styles are completely different, their inspirations are completely different, their materials are completely different. It’s a very interesting variety of artworks.”
The only commonality between the artists is that they each have a relationship with Anderson Ranch, she said.
In many cases, the artist’s roots with the ranch run deep. James Surls and Charmaine Locke are two prominent Carbondale-based artists with works in the exhibition. At approximately 17 by 18 feet, it’s impossible to miss Surls' “Three Worlds, Seven Rings” stainless steel sculpture on the campus. Locke’s intricate, Lotus-esque “Open Book” bronze sculpture, meanwhile, will also likely make ranch-goers stop.
“I love showing with her,” Surls said of working with his wife.
Surls and Locke have taught drawing classes on and off at Anderson Ranch since the late 1980s. One of Surls' former students is artist Richard Lapedes, whose work is featured in the exhibition.
Lapedes, in fact, started working on “Time Flies” — his brass-plate-and-steel-fitting sculpture — in one of Surls' classes way back when.
“I’m very proud of that fact,” Surls said.
“There’s a reality in being an art teacher: The better your students do, the better you look,” he quipped.
As a sculpture artist, he pointed to the challenges of showcasing his larger pieces. He credited Anderson Ranch for using its space and position in the art world “to do something that a lot of museums don’t have the opportunity to.”
For Anderson Ranch’s part, the exhibition is perfect for the time, Roberts said.
“This is an experience that people can do by themselves,” she said. “They can come to the ranch, take the self-guided tour, stand 6 feet apart from one another and be safe and outdoors and experience the ranch in this really new way that meets new health and safety standards.”
A selection of the works are for sale, with proceeds benefiting Anderson Ranch and the artists. Roberts noted that the ranch recently scaled back its hours to 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday to Friday.
“Sculpturally Distanced” artists
David Kimball Anderson
Ajax W. Axe
Enrique Martinez Celaya
Brad Reed Nelson