Montclair’s premier sculpture park will welcome visitors with a Friday night opening from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., showcasing eight works by four artists from North Jersey. The park is at the corner of Hillside Avenue and Orange Road in Montclair, across from Hillside School.
The Hillside Sculpture Park is the vision of artist and Montclair blacksmith Charlie Spademan, whose elaborate metalwork adorning the front door of the Bangz barber shop caught the eye of developer Bob Silver about 12 years ago. Since then, Silver, whose firm Bravitas specializes in adaptive reuse, and whose properties include Brassworks, Hillside Square and Academy Square in Montclair, becomes a collector of Spademan sculptures and often employs Spademan in his building restorations.
When Spademan suggested the sculpture park to Silver last spring, “I was thrilled,” Silver said. “Charlie is the most amazing artist and I love everything he does.”
The 75ft x 126ft shaded empty lot that will house the park’s eight sculptures was part of the purchase when Bravitas purchased the property which is now Hillside Square from the First Church of Christ Science.
Two painted aluminum sculptures by Clifton artist Wendy Letven (with major help from her husband, sculptor Gary Frederiksen) will flank the northeast side of the park closest to Church Street. The two pieces, “There are holes in my perception of the forest” and “Four Currents”, were part of a major sculpture exhibition at Riverside Park this summer. On Wednesday, Letven repainted parts of “Four Currents”, which was badly vandalized in New York. The large metal sculptures were born from Wendy’s work in a paper cut assembly.
Morristown artist Peter Allen will present a large cast brass piece ‘Man in a Wave’, completed in 1987 and ‘Two Figures on the Mountain’, a more recent piece that combines bronze, stainless steel, rock, copper and wood, and which also combines elements from two periods of his artistic career. The horizontal piece began as a summary; Allen began adding figures to his abstract works during the pandemic. “Man in a Wave” began as a self-portrait. His name is linked to the tragedy that occurred as he flew to Mexico to spin the play. During the flight and unbeknownst to Allen, his father died of a massive heart attack in San Miguel de Allende, turning Allen’s world upside down.
The park will also feature two bronze and firewood works Jerry Gant of Newark, who was well known as a graffiti artist and speech artist as well as a sculptor. (Watch his self-guided tour of his sculptures in Newark’s Nat Turner Park here.) Glove was widely cried as a native son of Newark and a cultural component of the city after his untimely death from liver cancer in 2018.
“It was important to me that his work was shown here,” said Spademan.
Spademan’s pointed carving of a carbon and stainless steel tree, “Symmetry 3-27” will dominate the center of the park but, between the installation of the pieces by Gant and the elaboration of a myriad of structural details in the ‘together he was still running towards completion in his Belleville studio at 6 a.m. on Thursday. Another sculpture by Spademan, “Conflagration”, is 13 feet tall. He also built a Tudor-style bench, which sits under a black walnut tree.
This will be the first public art opening in Montclair organized by Bravitas since the start of the pandemic. Before this success, Bravitas organized around 24 openings per year in its different buildings. Hillary Reimnitz, the wife of one of Silver’s business partners, John Reimnitz, first came up with the idea of creating galleries in the Bravitas buildings and the first exhibition was held in 2016. The arrangement is now done. part of the Bravitas business plan. The developer gets free art to display in their buildings, but artists can sell their work commission-free and take advantage of public openings. All pieces in the sculpture park will be available for purchase.
Local caterer Joni Bronander will provide goodies for the Friday opening.
The opening of Hillside Sculpture Park is Friday, October 1 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the corner of Hillside Avenue and Orange Road in Montclair. The public is welcome.