When it comes to the arts in Lenoir and Caldwell County, sculpture is king — it is simply a part of everyday life. These works of art enhance the beauty of the area and silently urge those who pass by to stop, catch their breath, and enjoy the simple pleasures in life.
Since the early 1980s, the annual Indoor/Outdoor Sculpture Celebration has brought artisans and art lovers together to view sculptures of all types, including metal, wood, found objects, and even duct tape. Everything from abstract and contemporary sculptures to more traditional pieces can be found at the competition, which features movable, stationary, indoor, and outdoor creations.
Co-sponsored by the Caldwell Arts Council and the Tri-State Sculptors Association, the event is the second Saturday of September at the J.E. Broyhill Park in downtown Lenoir. The park is transformed into an outdoor sculpture garden where visitors can stroll across the lawns and glimpse at the entries, talk with artists, and even buy sculptures. One of Southeast’s largest and longest-running sculpture competitions, the celebration features between 75 and 80 national artists and their works.
Over the years, the Caldwell Arts Council has used private donations to purchase pieces from the competition to place in the community. Purchased pieces have been installed throughout the county on street corners, schools, parks, the community college, and local libraries. Now, the collection has grown to 78 pieces. The Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. has recognized Caldwell County as having the largest collection of permanent public outdoor sculpture of any county of its population in the United States.
Lenoir’s largest piece, Across the Grain, was developed by Thomas Sayre using an earth-casting technique from the ground with earth-colored concrete. The sculpture is located in downtown Lenoir and towers at 26 feet and weighs 40,000 pounds. The sculpture is base camp for exploring the sculpture exhibits in downtown Lenoir and the sculptures that can be easily accessed from four streets: Mulberry Street, West Avenue, College Avenue, and Harper Avenue.