Nashua, NH

Contact Name
Kathy Hersh
Project Dates
Annually in May for three weeks since 2008
The Nashua International Sculpture Symposium is an annual community event designed to elevate appreciation and involvement in public art in Nashua. Each May since 2008 three international sculptors are invited to spend three weeks in Nashua. While in Nashua, each sculptor creates a large granite or metal outdoor sculpture that is given to the City and placed in a public place for all to enjoy. The result is professional sculptures that are part of people’s everyday living. Currently, 18 sculptures are installed throughout Nashua for the public to see and touch. Nashua is the only US city with an annual international sculpture symposium.

The community is intimately involved in the Symposium, hosting the sculptors, bringing them meals, and visiting them as they work.
Project Goals
What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
The goals for the annual Nashua International Sculpture Symposium are:
• to create everyday art, by creating outdoor, public art
• to engage the community in the process of creating public art
• to generate enthusiasm for art
• to increase the number of people who identify Nashua as a unique and special place

The desired outcome of this Symposium is to increase the community’s appreciation for and the awareness of art everyday. City Arts Nashua advances arts as part of a healthy community. Studies have shown that art, as part of public spaces, increases peoples’ feeling of a positive quality of life in their community and increases the value of rents in an area. The Symposium sculptures are part of everyday living in Nashua. Rather than going to a gallery or a museum to appreciate art, the 18 sculptures generated by our symposiums are in neighborhoods, in the downtown business district, at City Hall, at public schools, and parks in Nashua for all residents to visit, touch, and enjoy at any time.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
The goals have not changed over time. The implementation has been fine tuned.
Who was involved in this project and what did they do? (be sure to include the partners from outside of the creative sector and how local voices were included):
The Symposium is truly a community project. The sculptors work in space donated by Ultima NIMCO, a company in the Millyard. During the three week visit, the artists stay with host families within the community. Each workday lunch and dinner are donated by members of the community - residents and restaurants. In 2014 over 21 different organizations and individuals brought meals and shared them with the artists. The artists give talks at the public schools, the artists’ studio is open to the public the entire three weeks, and the artists participate in a variety of other community events. This year over 100 people came to the Opening Reception, co-hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Nashua, to welcome our artists. At the May 31st Closing this year, over 100 people boarded two City trolleys and trekked to each sculpture to hear the artists talk about their work and to have Mayor Lozeau dedicate the sculptures to the people of the City of Nashua.

The Symposium committee, comprised of volunteers, organizes the Symposium, holds fundraisers, compiles a yearbook, solicits sponsorships, writes grant proposals, and all the other work needed for a successful Symposium.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
The City of Nashua has a thriving arts community, which is not as visible as it could and should be. Five years ago Mayor Lozeau constituted the Nashua Arts Commission to help City government focus more on the arts. The Arts Commission recently finished the Arts and Cultural Plan, which is in review by the Board of Aldermen. The Board of Aldermen recently introduced legislation to build a performing arts center. Discussions, meetings and workshops are now underway to develop and understand the details of such a proposal. The City is recognizing the importance of arts and culture to be viable and vital, and is taking steps in the right direction.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
Although not common in the US, sculpture symposia area held throughout the world, in particular in Europe and Asia. John Weidman, a sculptor who lives in Brookline NH, has participated in many international symposia. When John became the Director of Andres Institute of Art 15 or 20 years ago, he began an annual Symposium at Andres. It was John's idea to also have an annual symposium in Nashua. He sold the idea to Meri Goyette, a prominent arts enthusiast in Nashua, who was able to bring the idea to reality.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
The following is the annual timeline for organizing the annual Symposium..
9/14 Identify theme and potential partners; confirm use of NIMCO (indoor and outdoor studio space for sculptors)
10/14 – 12/14 Review approved locations report, review additional sites to be added, gain approval for additional sites, update report
01/15 – 04/15 Identify sculptors; get all paperwork completed for sculptors; determine who will pick them up from the airport, etc.;
identify host families; begin publicity; plan Opening Reception
05/15 Coordinate meals; welcome public; coordinate with schools; meet with press; determine final locations of sculptures; get
someone to help move the sculptures; call digsafe; get bases installed; install sculptures; get plaques made (Bronzecraft);
organize and host the Closing, publicize, reserve trolleys, etc.; take the sculptors back to the airport
06/15-05/16 Complete Yearbook, fundraise; present to civic groups, at the library, to the Board of Aldermen, etc.; give tours to seniors,
students, public officials, etc.; publicity; sculpture dedications when sponsored

A committee of about 12 volunteers organize the Symposium.
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
The committee members work well together, having been together for most of the 7 years since inception of the Symposium. Everyone has specific responsibilities and follows through on their commitments. The committee now has a year round schedule of meetings and responsibilities. The project steps have been refined significantly over time. We now get the future sculpture locations identified and approved long before the sculptors arrive. We have a much better plan so the bases and sculptures are all installed before the sculptors leave at the end of the Symposium. We now have a 'sponsorship program,' which includes presentations to civic clubs, etc. We also refined our paperwork process.
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
Funding of course is a major obstacle. Especially in NH, resources are limited for the arts.

Where to place sculptures was a major obstacle for the first few years.

In the beginning we did not know what the finished sculptures would look like until well into the Symposium. The first year one of our sculptors started to create a nude, which would not have been well received in Nashua.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
To help with funding, we formalized the sculpture sponsorship program. We now present to various groups, soliciting sponsorships ($3,500 per sculpture). In 2014 two sponsors, who were not previously involved in the Symposium, resulted from our presentations to civic groups. Ten of 18 sculptures are now sponsored.

To help with placement of sculptures we now have a subcommittee responsible to annually develop a list of locations. These locations (all on public property) are then approved by the Mayor, and then by any other entity, like the Library Board of Trustees if the location is on library property.

We now have a list of criteria (no nudes, for example) and require some idea of what the sculptor will create before they arrive in Nashua. We work diligently not to limit their creativity, so often the sculpture is different than we might have expected, but they all now meet the criteria.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
Form a committee of dedicated individuals who believe in the project and have time to commit to it. Nurture the committee. Be sure each member has their own responsibilities. Identify a strong chair.

Develop and maintain relationships with City government, officials, other arts organizations, non-art organizations, the media, and everyone else!

Find someone who is interested in and good at marketing, publicity and social media.
Project Impact
How has this project strategically connected arts and cultural activities to social, economic, and cultural issues in your community? What is different in your community as a result of this project?
Our targeted audience is people who are not artists and not immersed in the art world. We strive to expand people’s awareness of art as an important part of their community and their lives. People are encouraged to attend the Opening, to visit the sculptors as they work, to bring meals, to thank them at the Closing and to appreciate the installed sculptures as part of their everyday living. Each year the Symposium focuses on engaging a different sector of the community. For example, the 2013 Symposium, with the theme Celebrate / Celebrar, centered around the Nashua neighborhood that has the highest concentration of Latino residents. Latino sculptors came and created sculptures celebrating the Latino culture and the immigrant experience. Activities around the Symposium brought many people to the neighborhood for the first time. The Ledge Street School, located in the heart of the Latino neighborhood, was a partner with the Symposium; the sculptors presented in Spanish (translated into English) about their cultures and their work to the students at the school in Nashua’s lowest socio-economic neighborhood. In 2014 the focus was on engaging the business community to be more involved. The Chamber of Commerce co-hosted the Opening Reception; The hunt community, a senior living facility, hosted one of the sculptures and provided all the food and food sculptures for the Opening Reception.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
We could say the project is successful because Nashua has 18 permanent outdoor sculptures placed on public property as a result of the Symposium. But in reality the project is successful because people are more aware and appreciative of art. Residents talk about the sculptures as part of their environment, using them as landmarks, disagreeing on placement, interpreting the more abstract sculptures, etc. People not involved at all in the art community are now sponsoring sculptures. Other arts activities, such as the first annual arts festival, are happening more often.
How did you measure this success or progress?
A successful Symposium is measured by:
• the quality of the art produced
• the number of community members involved in the process
• the amount of enthusiasm generated for the arts
• the number of people who identify Nashua as a unique and special place

The quality of the art produced during our Symposiums is excellent. We spend a great deal of time selecting just the right sculptors, who are talented, enjoy working with the public and will work well with the other sculptors.

The number of people participating in this event has increased steadily year over year, literally, from a handful to hundreds. The amount of enthusiasm generated for the arts since the inception of the Symposium, 7 years ago, is very exciting. Numerous arts events and organizations have begun and been created in Nashua since 2008. City Arts Nashua recently held its tenth annual Art Walk and has begun planning for its second annual Arts Awards Luncheon. An increase in the number of people who identify Nashua as a unique and special place is evidenced by the fact that the Symposium is becoming recognized by the Nashua government, business and general community as a singular event happening only in this City. In 2014 the Board of Aldermen passed a Resolution establishing May as Sculptures Month.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
Sometimes the sculptures are not exactly what we expected. For example, James Gannon from Ireland was unable to complete his sculpture the first year. So the sculpture on one side looks a bit like a person's backside. The sculpture became the butt of a lot of jokes and had to be moved from a neighborhood to a park under some trees. The Parks Superintendent says the kids all love the sculpture at the park. We have not had that challenge since with other sculptures and the symposium got a lot of press from the experience.

Recently the City has determined the need to move one of the installed sculptures, which is a new challenge. Even the committee members cannot agree on whether this is acceptable or an insult. However, it has generated community discourse, which is always beneficial.