(Charlie Spademan / COURTESY OF ELLEN GOELLNER)

By DIEGO JESUS BARTESAGHI MENA
bartesaghi@montclairlocal.news

A new outdoor sculpture park is coming to the corner of Church Street and Orange Road in Montclair, curated by Montclair artist and resident Charlie Spademan.

The installation, at its unveiling and opening reception on Friday, Oct. 1, will include eight sculptures — two each from four artists. Spademan said the installation will remain at the location for a year, and he envisions rotating in more sculptures from other artists in the spring and the fall of next year. 

The sculpture park is open to the public and it’s the first curated installation Spademan has ever done. 

“One important part of my vision is that I would like this sculpture park to be usable, perhaps as an educational opportunity for the public schools,” Spademan said. “I’d like to think that perhaps school groups or other groups would like to visit and discuss the different viewpoints of the artists that are there.” 

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Spademan began working as an artist in 1976 in Manhattan, but after moving to Montclair in the 1990s, he focused more on craftsmanship — working with hand-forged items, rails, gates, fences and interior hardware.

Just before the pandemic started, Spademan was offered an opportunity to work with Bob Silver, co-founder and CEO of the Bravitas Group — which focuses on real estate and other entrepreneurial projects, as well as philanthropy. Spademan created art for Silver’s BrassWorks Gallery on Grove Street, mostly ironwork sculptures.

But as the pandemic began and the township began to shut down, work began to dwindle. Spademan said that prompted him to reevaluate his life, and what it meant to pursue being an artist.

(Artist Wendy Letven / COURTESY OF WENDY LETVEN)

“That led in a roundabout way to the sculpture park again, with Bob Silver, who I’m going to say is a patron of mine — [a] very good friend, the most generous man I know,” he said. 

Spademan and Silver discussed creating an outdoor gallery in one of the empty lots Silver owns. Silver had one stipulation — Spademan would have to include his own artwork in the installation.

Spademan said for his first work as a curator, he wanted to showcase local artists — from New Jersey and New York — “because there are so many truly talented local artists that I think there’s no need to travel further. And I’m very excited with the group that I have for the first showing.” 

Spademan did not want to give away what type of sculptures the park will have, he said, because he wanted them to be a surprise for the community.

“I want people to experience the sculptures and to engage in conversation with one another,” Spademan said.

(Peter Allen’s sculpture displayed at the 2021 NJ Artist Annual at the Newark Museum. / COURTESY OF CHARLIE SPADEMAN)

Included in the installation is work by Wendy Letven, a multidisciplinary artist working in sculpture, installation and painting in the New York Area. She created the “I Notice The Earth Echoes” sculpture, currently on display at One Liberty Plaza in New York until Nov. 17. Brookdale Properties, on its website, says the work “celebrates the reverberations and cycles of change in nature across our planet.”

Peter Allen, who has been working out of his studio in Harding Township since the 1990s and who has a career spanning 40 years, has developed a new method of portraying figures in the landscape using wood, clay, bronze, steel and stone, as well as oil on canvas paintings. According to his website, last year, Allen’s “Figures on the Hill” was on display at the Passaic Arts Center in Hawthorne. Allen has also showcased his art at Studio Montclair. 

Two sculptures by Newark artist Jerry Gant, who died in 2018, will also be on display. According to an article by WNYC.org in 2018, “most of Newark’s public sculptures were made by Gant, including a five-piece metal sculpture outside of Newark Penn Station” and the 13-piece sculpture series in Nat Turner Park. 

(Newark’s artist Jerry Gant / COURTESY OF JERRY J GANT ESTATE)

“My criteria was to bring a diverse group of artists. I didn’t want the works necessarily to relate to each other,” Spademan said. “It isn’t a show with a theme. They’re all the people whose work I was familiar with and had admired.” 

The opening ceremony will be held on Friday at 6 p.m. The ceremony is open to the public and some of the artists might be in attendance, Spademan said. 

“I really encourage people to come and enjoy the evening. It is a unique space in Montclair. I can’t think of anything that’s similar,” Spademan said. “Obviously there’s the sculpture in Crane Park and one or two sculptures in other parts of town, but they don’t change. I would like this to be, in a sense, an outdoor gallery.”