Rockland Sculpture Race ahead

Pushed, pulled, pedaled

By Dagney C. Ernest | May 17, 2017
Kim Bernard, center, and some physicist friends came up with a square-wheeled boat for the People's Sculpture Race in Cambridge, Mass.

Rockland — Local artist Kim Bernard is in proselytizing mode. Earlier this month, she gave a presentation at Rockland Public Library; and Saturday morning, May 20, she will be at Rock City Café, offering a fun art activity that comes with a pitch for her cause: the inaugural Rockland Sculpture Race.

“It’s really for anyone who wants to come and make a button,” she said. “People can decorate their own buttons and while they’re doing that, I’ll talk to them about the sculpture race.”

The Rock City session runs from 9 a.m. to noon … and the deadline to submit a proposal for this summer’s Rockland Sculpture Race is Thursday, June 1, so Bernard is doing everything she can to get the word out. And what are the words she uses to describe a sculpture race?

“It’s really all about creativity and community — just for the sake of fun,” she said a week before the Rock City button workshop.

Bernard is the current Artist-in-Residence at the University of New England, but she resides in the Lime City (with 312,000 miles on her Toyota Corolla as testament to her commute). For the last couple of years, she has traveled farther south, to Massachusetts for the People's Sculpture Race at the Cambridge Arts River Festival. Sculpture races take place all over the world, she said. The Rockland Sculpture Race is the first in Maine, as far as she can tell.

“Rockland’s my home! And I just thought, this is a fabulous event — it encourages people who might not typically make art or be artists with a capital A to make something sculptural, something three-dimensional that they can participate in a race with,” she said.

Sculpture racing brings art to the people, she said, taking it “out of the gallery and museum setting, and literally brings it to the streets.”

And what streets will that be Saturday morning, Aug. 12? Several: racers will begin on Winter Street; turn left on Park Drive; right on Tillson Avenue; right on Weeks Street; right on Commercial Street; and end back on Winter. Sculpture racing has a number of agreed-upon parameters, and one is that the course is less than a mile. There will indeed be an award for speed, but also a People’s Choice and many more for things like creativity, ingenuity, “wildness and daring.”

Overall, a sculpture race is people, sculpture and wheels — pushed, pulled or pedaled, Bernard said. Entries are human-powered … and wheels should be integral to the work. That could just mean screwing some casters on a sculpture; it could mean incorporating a bicycle, wheelchair, dolly, stroller, scooter, skateboard or unicycle — anything with wheels.

That covers the “Race”; as for the “Sculpture,” it would be some kind of contraption that an individual or a team, community group or family decides to create, with any kind of a theme.

“The overriding theme is ‘spectacle,’ so whatever people want to get together and build, create, invent,” she said.

The sculpture races she has participated in have run the gamut, “from children on scooters with an Aesop’s fable theme” to the elaborate "Sisyphus the Square-Wheeled Boat" she built with a group of physicists.

“It was this crazy thing, and it took us some time to build! They may actually bring it, or enter it anyway,” she said.

As impressive as "Sisyphus" is, Bernard said she encourages people not to be intimidated by the fabulous contraptions they might see online in other sculpture races. Instead, she advises getting together with family or friends over a weekend and working with recycled cardboard and some kind of wheels that are kicking around.

“Just come up with some idea that’s manageable to put together and have some fun — building and creating together! It could be something you already have partially built that you want to put wheels on,” she said.

There are only a couple of weekends left for such initial exploration. Entries to the Rockland Sculpture Race require a description and sketch, or some other graphic representation, of what an individual or team will create for the race. Bernard said she expects that on June 1 itself, “my inbox will be bombarded.” Then it will be up to the jurors to decide if the entries meet the guidelines — basically, if they are feasible, safe, appropriate and not overtly commercial, Bernard said.

“It’s also for the jurors to have a heads-up on some of the awards … we’ll be making them up,” she said. “And we have some really good jurors!”

Indeed; the inaugural Rockland Sculpture Race will be judged by Michael Komanecky, chief curator of the Farnsworth Art Museum; Suzette McAvoy, executive director/chief curator of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art; and independent curator Donna McNeil, former director of the Maine Arts Commission.

The race is set for 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 12, followed by the awards ceremony at 10 a.m. Then, the sculptures will be exhibited for a couple of hours in the CMCA courtyard and across Winter Street in the parking lot of Dowling Walsh Gallery. The event coincides with, and is sponsored by, the annual Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors Show around the corner at Harbor Park.

Bernard said there were about a dozen and a half people at her library presentation who seemed interested in participating “or were at least curious enough to take the time to come.” The group talked about the route of the race and the process of selection; and she showed some examples of contraptions people have built for other sculpture races.

“We brainstormed a list of all things on wheels, came up with a list of two or three dozen already wheeled things that they could hack and turn into a sculpture,” she said. “And then we brainstormed ideas of what could it be? What sort of person, place, thing – what’s the theme? Would you involve costumes? Maybe there’d be sound?”

Getting people brainstorming about the Rockland Sculpture Race possibilities is what Bernard is up to these days, when she’s not taking part in the Habitat for Humanity tiny-house build next to the Hospitality House in Rockport; or traveling to UNE to work on an amphibious tiny house with students. It might take a village to raise a (tiny) house, but it won’t take that many to make the Rockland Sculpture Race a success.

“If we got 100 entries, the jurors would have to be quite selective! Cambridge has, on average, about 15 entries … and it felt big with 15 sculptures rolling down the road, passing each other,” she said.

Bernard thinks a dozen would be a success for Maine’s inaugural race.

“That would be a good number,” she said. “More is welcome, but for Year One, I think that would be great.”

For more information about the Rockland Sculpture Race, stop by Rock City Café, 316 Main St., Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon; or visit rocklandsculpturerace.org for complete details and entry form. There also is a Rockland Sculpture Race page on Facebook.

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Staff Profile

Dagney C. Ernest
A&E editor for Courier Publications, LLC
(207) 594-4401/4407, ext. 115
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Dagney has been providing Courier coverage of the local arts scene since 1985 and has helmed the multi-paper A&E section since it debuted in 2003. She has been a local performing artist, community and professional, for more than 30 years and spent a decade writing, producing and announcing on-air for several Midcoast radio stations. When not in the NewsNest, Dagney likes to be in motion.

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