Nelson Grice Public Sculpture Installation
With the installation of Nelson Grice’s sculpture “County Seat” quickly approaching, the Shelby County Arts Council’s Executive Director Bruce Andrews sat down with Grice to discuss how this art piece came into being.
Two public sculptures were commissioned by local artists Ted Metz and Nelson Grice to be installed in the Old Mill Square Park that represent Columbiana and Shelby County. Metz’s sculpture “Sustenance : Agriculture, Art, Industry” was installed in the spring of 2020 and now Grice prepares for the dedication of “County Seat” on Sunday, May 2, 2021 at 2pm. This dedication will coincide with the SCAC Pottery Collective and Artist Member Gallery Exhibit in the EBSCO Fine Art Gallery. The dedication and gallery reception are free and open to the public and everyone is encouraged to attend. The event will last from 2pm-5pm.
For more information on Grice’s sculpture and to hear about his inspiration, check out this interview with Grice and Bruce Andrews or scroll down for FAQ’s about Grice’s and Metz’s sculptures.
1) How did the placement of this sculpture come about? Did Nelson Grice do this on his own or was it a commissioned piece? Was anyone else involved?
There has been some discussion of sculpture being in a park for a few years.
As the project actually began in early 2019 and the idea of Old Mill Square Park evolved, various opinions from the county and the city weighed in. The possibility of ordering a sculpture from a known dealer was discussed. If that had been the case, it wouldn’t have been very personal to the property. During the course of these discussions, two historically significant Mill Stones were found on the property. I was asked if we could find a way to make those stones part of the park in some demonstrative way. The whole idea of preserving the historical narrative of the city of Columbiana and Shelby County was always on the table and central to the idea of the park. After due consideration and many discussions,.
I called Nelson Grice, and nationally known sculptor, to ask his opinion of these Mill Stones could be incorporated into permanent sculptures that would represent the historical narrative of the property, for ages to come. Nelson, in turn, called his mentor Ted Metz. Ted, it is safe to say, is an icon in the art world. He has public installations all over the world including Venice and Cortana, Italy. He is a retired art professor emeritus from the University of Montevallo.
Each artist, took a millstone and built a narrative around it significant to the history of the property. Each sculpture, evokes a thought process about city of Columbiana and Shelby County. The idea that a public art piece should invoke curiosity first- is inherent in both these works of art.
2) What is the sculpture officially called?
Nelson’s sculpture is officially called “County Seat”
Ted’s sculpture is entitled “Sustenance”
3) Could you provide a brief description of the sculpture from your perspective?
The two sculptures both have unique meaning and you can find the artist statement on our website. My take on it, would be: the County Seat is in front of the Arts Council entrance. First and foremost, this sculpture is supposed to be inviting. We want you to sit on it, take your picture in it, etc. In that way, it’s like the big beach chair at Jimmy Buffett’s place on the coast. It is a” Welcome to Columbiana.” With that said, it is supposed to be an artist representation of a chair design reminiscent of the 1800s. The hands and feet on an inanimate object are the artist signature on the sculpture. On the back of that chair in central to the theme is the historic, iconic image of a Shelby County courthouse-a symbol of Columbiana .
In my view, if it makes you look up from your phone and laugh and take a picture-mission accomplished.
Ted’s sculpture entitled “Sustenance” more serious narrative. If you look at the base of one of the elements of that sculpture you will see the words “agriculture, industry and art” bricks in the sculpture are actually taken from Shelby iron works and the design of the tower element of the sculpture is also reminiscent of design found at Shelby Iron Works. The idea that the millstone grinds grain to make bread is also clearly represented. Again, the main thing to both of these sculptures was to embody the millstones found on the property and some unique and significant way.
4) What does it mean to the city of Columbiana and Shelby County?
I love Columbiana. I’ve been a Shelby County resident for the last 38 years and I’m passionate about the area. It is my goal to infuse Arts and cultural opportunities into the community in a sustainable way. I do believe that Columbiana can and will be an arts and cultural hub for Central Alabama and beyond. I believe, long-term that will benefit everybody in terms of indirect economic impact, etc. I know that everybody is not passionate about the arts and that’s okay. Sometimes I think that folks believe that if you’re for the arts, that means you’re opposed to sports complexes and the like. Nothing can be further from the truth. Great towns have both. I believe Columbiana is not only a great town, it’s an extraordinary town in an extraordinary county. In 1985 there was a nondescript exit ramp south of Montgomery-which is now the home of the Shakespeare Festival. That Arts facility brings in tens of millions of dollars to bless that community-those who care about the Arts and those who don’t. It just takes a while. It’s a long-term vision. And it’s only one part of the puzzle. Fortunately we have good leadership in the city and county. We have leadership that understands that industry, art and recreation are all part of a very important mix to bring a great quality of life for all of us in Shelby County. In that way, these sculptures invite people to come experience Shelby County and Columbiana.