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An Art Gallery without walls November 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Cyprus, Arts Exhibitions Cyprus, Cyprus Nicosia.
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Ten artists from around the world gathered in a cloud of dust last week to create the second part of an International Sculpture Park

I could see white dust filling the air from the main road but thought nothing of it. However, approaching the park, the scene was quite breathtaking. A woodland slope was host to a group of ten dust-coated artists, each working on individual pieces of limestone. Over two weeks they had been carving sculptures as part of the second International Sculpture Symposium held in Ayia Varvara.

These ten sculptures were unveiled last week and have taken their places alongside ten existing sculptures at the International Sculpture Park, that were created during a similar event last year. Despite being on a hillside outside Nicosia, the park is called ‘international’ due to the participation of overseas artists, from as far afield as Cuba and Argentina.

“The International Sculpture Symposium is an EU-funded programme that helps Europe’s regions form partnerships to work together on common projects,” said Christos Lanitis, one of the artists and a member of the Friends of Fine Arts Association, which first realised the dream of a park. “By sharing knowledge and experience, these partnerships enable the regions involved to develop new solutions to economic, social and environmental challenges.”

Last year, the first symposium had sculptors from France, Germany, Spain, Poland, Bulgaria, Georgia, Lebanon, Syria and Cyprus working together to set up the first part of the park. “The association’s aim is to promote both Cypriot and foreign artists by organising exhibitions in Cyprus and abroad, and, of course, educating our members and the public about the arts in general and cultural and artistic events in particular,” said Christos. The Ayia Varvara Community Council donated the land, which, in addition to the sculptures, is home to eucalyptus trees and a small chapel of the Holy Cross that sits on top of the hill.

The scene from this year’s gathering was reminiscent of Edward Scissorhands, with clouds of dust surrounding each artist as they worked away on sculptures in the open air. Some were in overalls sans T-shirts due to the heat while others were covered from head to toe in clothing and masks. Tools were scattered around the area, and the atmosphere was cheerful despite the pressure to finish in time for the unveiling last Sunday. “Some of us have worked together on other symposiums,” said Nabi Basbus, from Lebanon. “But it’s such a nice time for all of us because we meet new people and live with them for 15 days, meanwhile doing what we love, so we’re one big, happy family.”

Although last year’s symposium did not have a theme, members of the Association decided to adopt the idea of having one from now on. “It was Christos Lanitis’ idea to focus this year’s sculptures on one theme, the sea, because he’s such a fan,” says Christiana Megalemou, PR spokesperson for the symposium. “The idea was to give all these people from different backgrounds a theme so they could elaborate and create something the way they understand and view it.” Although some of the artists’ English was on the poor side, it was clear that they were all happy to lend each other a helping hand whenever necessary, and, of course, the language of art was widely spoken.

The Friends of Fine Arts Association, a registered non-profit organisation, has big plans for this large stretch of hill. At present, however, describing the area as a park is a little misleading. There is little greenery and few facilities. “Nothing has happened yet apart from the roofed kiosk and seating area but our objective is to create a sculpture park with no admission fee, that way making it accessible to everyone,” said Christiana. “It has already become an educational destination for schoolchildren and college students, and we’re hoping that a cafeteria will also be operating for the community and the youth in particular.”

This is encouraging, but improvements to the site in the last year have been fewer than organisers had hoped. The reason is simple. “Lack of funds and sponsors,” said Christiana. “The younger generation might appreciate what we are trying to do here, but the truth is that a lot of people don’t understand or simply don’t see the point of it.” The EU funds 50 per cent of the costs involved, but the rest have to be covered by other sponsors and more need to be found.

The idea of a gallery without walls is intriguing enough but the fact that it also enables people to respond to these pieces of art, explore them and think about the sculpture in relation to the landscape, is a thrilling concept. However, the sad fact is that although people, regardless of race, creed and colour had gathered at this small village just outside of Nicosia to create a beautiful, creative recreational area, it’s a wonder if it will ever be fully appreciated.

The International Sculpture Park is situated in the village of Ayia Varvara, (Saint Barbara), Nicosia district, Cyprus.

Related Links > www.friendsoffinearts.org.cy

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