1976 sculpture symposium united local families with international artists

The Liberty Hill Development Foundation, which is spearheading an effort to relocate the International Sculpture Park into Lions Foundation Park, received a gift of original drawings from the last local member of the Liberty Hill Cultural Affairs Council. The drawings by American artist Catchi depicted the sculptors who participated in Liberty Hill’s International Sculpture Symposium in 1976. The last remaining funds from the Council and the artwork were donated by Dorothy Klein, who served as the committee’s secretary-treasurer. Seated from left are Mrs. Klein, Don Cunningham and Bob McCullough. Standing from left are Mary Morris, Larry Nicholson, Gary Spivey and Dean Klein. The group is displaying a Catchi drawing of the late Mel Fowler.  (Courtesy Photo)

The Liberty Hill Development Foundation, which is spearheading an effort to relocate the International Sculpture Park into Lions Foundation Park, received a gift of original drawings from the last local member of the Liberty Hill Cultural Affairs Council. The drawings by American artist Catchi depicted the sculptors who participated in Liberty Hill’s International Sculpture Symposium in 1976. The last remaining funds from the Council and the artwork were donated by Dorothy Klein, who served as the committee’s secretary-treasurer. Seated from left are Mrs. Klein, Don Cunningham and Bob McCullough. Standing from left are Mary Morris, Larry Nicholson, Gary Spivey and Dean Klein. The group is displaying a Catchi drawing of the late Mel Fowler.
(Courtesy Photo)

By SHELLY WILKISON

At age 86, Dorothy Klein can remember the fall of 1976 like it was yesterday.

Mrs. Klein’s family was one of more than a dozen local families who housed sculptors during the Liberty Hill International Sculpture Symposium that year. Organizers credited their generosity for the success of the three-month event, which brought artists from as far away as Italy, Japan, Germany, France and Canada.

Mrs. Klein was a member of the Liberty Hill Garden Club in 1976, and the club volunteered to prepare meals every week for the artists in residence.

“We all just started doing something,” she recalls. “The Garden Club cooked meals and tried to take some of the pressure off local families who were housing the artists in their homes. There was no hotel in town.”

During the day, sculptors chiseled and sanded on granite and marble and formed steel into magnificent sculptures from downtown Liberty Hill — where the VFW Post 8200 now stands.

Mrs. Klein remembers Wanda’s Cafe downtown sending over coffee at breakfast. Lunch was typically catered at the park by church groups, clubs and organizations.

“At night, there were lots of parties,” she said.

Although 36 years have passed since Canadian sculptor Harry Noordhoek stayed in her guest bedroom, she remembers clearly the dust and durt he brought home every day. Mrs. Klein did Noordhoek’s laundry in addition to preparing meals.

“I never knew that sculpting was so dirty,” she laughed.

“We became good friends, and he liked it here so much that he asked me after several weeks if he could bring his wife over,” she said. “After she got here, she took over his laundry and she was a great cook.”

Noordhoek passed away in 1992, but Mrs. Klein continued to stay in touch with his wife, exchanging Christmas cards every year.

“We’re a small town and not much was happening here. I thoroughly enjoyed being involved. It was a great experience,” she said.

Mrs. Klein, whose husband Oscar “Ozzie” Klein was a close friend of symposium organizer and local artist Mel Fowler, is one of the last members of the Liberty Hill Cultural Affairs Council still living in Liberty Hill. The Council was the host of the event, and Mrs. Klein was later asked to serve as its secretary-treasurer.

When she heard that the Liberty Hill Development Foundation was working to relocate the sculpture park into Lions Foundation Park and had plans to build a museum there, she invited Foundation Board members to her home to present them with memorabilia from the 1976 symposium.

Mrs. Klein presented the Foundation with the original drawings of artist Catchi of Manhassett, New York, who used oils and charcoal to illustrate and document the symposium. Her collection included illustrations of the sculptors creating their artwork.

“I want to see a museum built to keep all of these things safe, so others can enjoy them,” she said.

Mrs. Klein also presented the Board with the remaining funds from the Council — about $6,000 — which will be used toward the relocation of the sculpture park.