Art In the Park
March 26, 2021
The Village Green uses its outdoor setting of its 13+acres to culturally enhance the lives and lifestyle of Cashiers residents and visitors. The arts are celebrated in many and diverse ways.
Most prominent and visible are the eight permanent sculptures throughout the park. These sculptures create interest, but they also inspire dialogue and discussion. The Sculpture On the Green initiative was initially made possible through a generous contribution in 2005 by Marvin and Helene Gralnick when five sculptures were commissioned. Since their installation, additional sculptures have found their place within the natural beauty of The Village Green.
Local Cashiers’ artist Wesley Wofford led the effort to bring art into the park. He and his family moved from Hollywood, CA in 2001. Wofford is a Figurative Sculptor who has worked in the motion picture industry. He and his wife, whose family has been in Cashiers her entire life, built their home to include a 2300 square foot studio for him to pursue fine art full-time.
When the Wofford Family first arrived in Western North Carolina from California, The Village Green had just built the expansive playground, the Village Play. The Wofford children were the perfect age to enjoy the swings, slides, and climbing equipment. At that time, the park was very small with only one path, one portable bathroom unit, and the Summit Charter School located at what is now known as the Commons.
“It is very satisfying to see people meandering the park and thinking about all those years ago walking through the park with [John and Marcia McCarley] with a chainsaw and a can of spray paint to decide where [the sculptures] should be,” Wofford says.
He adds that he gets the same feeling when his family comes to Groovin’ On the Green, the popular Friday summer concert series. “The Commons [originated with] an off the cuff comment by Brian Renfro about how cool it would be to have a concert venue using some of the remnants of the old school,” he says. Wofford joined forces with local architect Dan Duckham and a local builder at the time to make it a reality.
The initiative to bring a sculpture collection to The Village Green coincided with Wofford’s arrival in the area. He read an article in the Crossroads Chronicle about the Gralnick’s donation to start the program. Around that same time, Sue Fetner donated the bronze sculpture, Come Play with Me, near the entrance to the Village Play. “It seemed serendipitous that a sculptor had just moved to the area,” Wofford observes, “and all of these things were happening.” He reached out to the then-president and park founding visionary, Al Balestiere, to volunteer to help with the effort. After meeting with him and Marcia McCarley he was asked to join The Village Green Board of Directors to spearhead the project.
Wofford met with Marvin and Helene Gralnick to discuss what they had in mind. “I pitched the idea of having a varied collection of works, representational, abstract, and non-objective,” he says. “I also designed the concept of purchasing a permanent collection as ‘anchor’ pieces and hosting temporary shows to celebrate the varieties of sculpture.” Wofford had just seen a work created by Peter Lundberg. After showing Marvin Gralnick a picture of it in a magazine, the two agreed that Lundberg would create the first piece of sculpture in The Village Green. That sculpture Utlunta has become emblematic in the park. (To learn about the story of that piece of sculpture, read this.) Lundberg became instrumental in establishing more of the permanent collection. “We also reached out to Jane DeDecker to purchase [the piece] Tree.” That sculpture of a woman in the yoga pose of the same name is located at the Highway 64 entrance to the park. According to Wofford, DeDecker is now sculpting a suffragette monument that will be installed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Wofford went on to serve a term as Chair of The Village Green Board of Directors. During his tenure, he curated several years of temporary exhibits. “We really got to push the envelope of what type of sculpture to display,” he recalls. While some pieces sparked lively debate, in the end the Sculpture On the Green has enriched cultural life in Cashiers. As visitors wander around The Village Green, they discover the wonder of creativity. (For a guide to the sculpture and other arts in the park, download a Guide to Art in the Park.
The Village Green provides a beautiful, free public park for the people. However, it is privately conserved by a nonprofit organization that depends on contributions to maintain the park and provide such an exceptional venue for the community. To learn more about The Village Green and community events like the green market or to make a donation, call 828-743-3434 or visit www.VillageGreenCashiersNC.com.