Mark Bennett: Artist Hopes River Sculpture Calms Courthouse, City Hall Visitors | News columns
An anxious young woman, awaiting a custody hearing, will sit on a bench outside the Vigo County Courthouse in 2121 and gaze at the water flowing through Brad Goldberg’s sculpture.
His granite depiction of the Wabash River might calm his nerves – a century after Goldberg’s artwork was placed on this site.
“It will easily last that long,” the Texas artist said on Tuesday.
After all, his new sculpture will be positioned between two venerable stone creations – the 133-year-old courthouse and the Terre Haute town hall, built in 1937. The work will be the centerpiece of Phase 1 of the project. Turn to the River, which will physically connect Wabash Avenue and the Wabash River. The project route will cut the city and county government campus in two, the seat of the city hall and the courthouse. Construction on the government campus renovation begins next week.
This is an initial phase of $ 1.2 million, funded by several public and private entities and donors, and overseen by Wabash Valley Art Spaces and the city.
“The space and the sculpture I make is the result of so much hard work, by so many people who have considered bringing the city back to the river,” Goldberg said.
His sculpture, still unnamed, reproduces the winding path of the river with water running through a granite overview of the Wabash and its banks.
Granite benches and other benches will surround the sculpture and courtyard, along with power stations for digital devices, new walkways, trees and landscaping. The beautification is expected to get more of the approximately 200 city and county employees to use the space for lunch, conversation or breaks.
For visitors, trips to the courthouse or city hall are often less than festive moments, such as lawsuits and resolution of land disputes and resolution of traffic offenses. When Goldberg visited the Terre Haute site to gather ideas for his sculpture, he visited the government campus and felt his “foreboding.” He has dealt with government buildings elsewhere which also arouse feelings of fear and apprehension.
“People tend to get a little stressed when they go to the courthouse or city hall. The mayor told me that, ”Goldberg explained, referring to Duke Bennett of Terre Haute.
Goldberg also detected great potential to change this atmosphere. And the river – a few hundred yards away – gave him the calm he wanted.
“I was really won over by this meandering river running through the landscape,” he said, “and I knew what I wanted to do.”
Visitors will see water flowing through the stone-carved shores throughout the year, except during the winter months.
“I hope this eases people’s tensions,” Goldberg said. He calls it a “silent room,” which his art tends to be.
“As Brad says, it’s a quiet song,” added Mary Kramer, the executive director who led the Turn to the River project for nearly a decade. “But one of the things he did was walk into each of the buildings [on the government campus] and look out the windows, and he felt it would be important to keep that panoramic view of the architecture.
The non-functional 1976 fountain that currently sits between City Hall and the courthouse slightly obscures the view of the buildings, both of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Goldberg’s sculpture turns away from an architectural element. It is made from Minnesota granite, rather than the Indiana limestone used to create the courthouse and city hall. In fact, construction on the courthouse began in 1884 with the laying of a 10,000-pound cornerstone – carved from the quarries of Stinesville, known as the birthplace of Indiana’s limestone industry.
Instead, Goldberg chose granite for his carving to avoid hard water issues – like calcification – common in the state, especially in limestone creations.
“It was a big chance I took, being in Indiana,” Goldberg joked.
“It’s really very simple and should be a lot easier to maintain,” he added.
Goldberg understands the connection between Indiana and limestone. He immersed himself in “Indiana stone culture” while creating a sculpture for Bloomington Town Hall in 1996. He hung out with stonemasons in quarries around Bedford and made friendships. The end result was a 14 foot tall ship, the “Bloomington Waters”, which empties into a channel flanked by river birch trees. For this sculpture, Goldberg used Hoosier limestone.
His other works include the Sylvan Portals, an arched entrance to a natural area in Richardson, Texas, and the 90-foot-tall “Coral Eden,” an imposing wall with seating below inside the International Airport. from Miami. “Nothing is perfect, but they are close,” Goldberg said of the two sculptures.
Although Goldberg and his 37-year-old wife, Diana, often visit Indianapolis, his hometown, and despite his mid-1990s project in Bloomington, he had never been to Terre Haute until March 2020 to visit the Turn site. to the River Phase 1. “I was very pleasantly surprised” by the city and the river.
This trip was also the last time Goldberg flew on an airplane. All public health precautions against the COVID-19 pandemic were taken a few days later. He will be back, however, to celebrate the planned completion of Phase 1 and its sculpture later this summer or early fall.
“I hope people will use it,” Goldberg said. “And I hope people respect it and take care of it.”
If so, generations of people preparing for one of the most difficult times of their lives inside the courthouse or city hall will benefit.
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 and [email protected]