In 1987, the Sculpture Celebration began as the brainchild of Dr. Henry Michaux, a Lenoir native and sculpture professor at the University of South Carolina. Dr. Michaux approached Sam Sturgis, long-time director of the City of Lenoir Parks and Recreation Department and Liza Plaster, director of the Caldwell Arts Council. Together, they created an event that would both celebrate sculpture and serve as a catalyst to get more people to enjoy the J.E. Broyhill Park in downtown Lenoir. Also involved was Bill Brown, a sculptor from Linville Falls and son of one of the early directors of the Penland School of Crafts.
These early visionaries successfully created a partnership between the City of Lenoir who funded the event , the Caldwell Arts Council who organized the event and the Broyhill Family Foundation, whose private donations were used to purchase selected works from each year’s competition. By using private money, organizers were able to avoid controversy that often plagues communities that often find it impossible to acquire public approval of art.
Over the years, more than 78 sculptures have been purchased and placed on street corners, parks, public offices, schools, libraries and almost anywhere in Lenoir and Caldwell County.
At the 21st Sculpture Celebration in 2006, Libba Evans, Secretary of Cultural Resources for the State of North Carolina made two very important announcements. First, the size of the Caldwell Arts Council's permanent public outdoor sculpture collection puts it in the top 3% of collections in the United States. Secondly, the Caldwell Arts Council has the largest collection of permanent public outdoor sculpture of any community of its population in the United States. The statistical research was performed and confirmed by Jane Robertson, Department of Mathematics, Appalachian State University. The research was based only on outdoor pieces in the collection.
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