The 2017 Liberty Hill Sculpture Celebration went smoothly, said principal co-organizer Susan Barnes.
Sculptors, craft vendors, food trucks and a car show set up shop over the weekend for the festival, which commemorates Liberty Hill’s unique history with the fine art world.
It was the second iteration of the “small but growing” arts festival, which organizers are working to secure as an annual occasion for the town. The first held last year marked the 40th anniversary of the 1976 Liberty Hill International Sculpture Symposium.
“Everyone I spoke to that attended were positive about it, and a lot of art people were excited to see this happen in Liberty Hill,” Barnes said.
Organizers had hoped to attract more attendance this year over last year’s event. The festival’s schedule this year was tightened into fewer hours, and broken up between a morning/afternoon portion at Lions Foundation Park and an evening reception downtown.
Additionally, there were more food trucks and vendors. The event was coordinated with the Lions Club’s Rip Roarin’ Ride bike race.
Co-organizer Mary Lyn Jones said that organizers estimated that around 400-500 visited over the course of the day.
Though parking lots were full, Barnes said she hopes even more will come next year. “But I always think big,” she added.
Gary Spivey, the president of the Liberty Hill Development Foundation, which owns the sculptures and the park, said that “every time we have something like this, we raise more awareness about the sculptures.”
Spivey and Mary Morse, a member of the Texas Society of Sculptors, were stationed in a tent to answer questions about the sculptures’ history and to collect donations for their preservation.
Spivey said he met a couple from Livingston, a town in East Texas, who had come to the festival after reading about it online. The man was a City Council member and the woman was involved with their local arts community.
“They were quite impressed with [the celebration],” Spivey said. “They were impressed by the artwork, and how we were incorporating them into the history of Liberty Hill and working with the city,” Spivey said.
A primary objective of the festival was to raise money for the preservation and promotion of the 22 modernist sculptures at Foundation Park and the adjacent Liberty Hill Intermediate School.
The mostly abstract sculptures are the legacy of the 1976 International Sculpture Symposium.
That year globally exhibited Liberty Hill artist Mel Fowler brought dozens of sculptors from Japan, France, Germany, Italy and other countries to live with Liberty Hill families and create an original series of monument-sized artworks.
Recent assessments have valued the works at $1.7 million.
A conservation expert over the summer declared many of the sculptures to be in need of professional cleaning and restoration. The works, which are made primarily of concrete, steel, and native granite and limestone, have been damaged from decades of outdoor exposure and vandalism.
Spivey said that while some sculptures, such as those made of granite, would not cost much to be professionally cleaned, others could prove much more expensive.
Spivey estimated restoration for the most damaged pieces could have price tags in the thousands.
Additionally, more costs could arise from the Foundation’s plans to coordinate the restoration with an effort to align the sculptures on a walking trail connecting the park and school, which the sculptures are spread between. Spivey said this could cost “in the ballpark” of $20,000.
Jones said that according to an internal email among organizers, $3,000 had been raised from Saturday evening’s downtown auction, $1,400 from the afternoon’s silent auction, and $400 from donations and T-shirt sales.
The total $4,800 will go entirely toward the preservation and promotion of the sculptures.
Barnes and Jones emphasized that the event was a “collaborative effort.”
“We want to give appreciation and thanks for all the people that made this happen,” Barnes said.
According to a provided list, major sponsors included the City of Liberty Hill, the Liberty Hill Development Foundation, the Liberty Hill Parks Board, the City of Liberty Hill Economic Development Corp., the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce, and The Liberty Hill Independent.
Organizers also thanked auctioneer Bert Marcom, Featherlite Quarry, Coldspring Quarry, Majda Parker, Ennis Golf Carts, Georgetown HEB, DigiTex, Greg Baker, Monroe Williamson with Cecil Motors, Catchi Childs and her family, Cat Trax Rentals,Giraffe Enterprise Services, Cordi Woodworks, Salvation Army, Liberty Hill ISD, Liberty Hill’s art teachers and students, Liberty Hill Police Department, Liberty Hill Lions Club, Fellowship Church, Junior High Art Club, Liberty Stars, Student Volunteers, Community Volunteers, Liberty Hill Public Library, Liberty Hill Garden Club, Parker’s Corner Market, Liberty Hill Cafe & Bakery, Flores Septic, Al Clawson Disposal, HEB Plus Leander James Roe Trucking, Nancy Wilk and Dylan Wilk Photography and “others not listed here.”