Symposium comes to a close in city

NASHUA – The ninth annual Nashua International Sculpture Symposium concluded Saturday afternoon, offering about 75 guests the opportunity to receive a firsthand look at the three latest additions to the city’s public art scene.

From Nashua City Hall on a scenic June day, art lovers packed onto a series of trolleys that transported them to the unveiling of the three new works spread across the community.

Kathy Hersh, chairwoman of the Symposium Committee and president of City Arts Nashua, gave a big thank-you to "all of you" – the ones sponsoring the artwork, inspiring the artists and enjoying the pieces once they were completed.

"This is a gift that the artists bring to you," she said.

Nashua is the only city in the country to host an annual international sculpture symposium. The goal, organizers say, is to promote public art and make it more accessible to the community.

The three artists selected to participate in the symposium this year included Asta Vasiliauskaite, of Lithuania; Gopinath Subbanna, of India; and Vasilis Vasili, of Greece. Those countries were chosen because of their strong cultural connection to Nashua, given the waves of Lithuanian and Greek immigrants a century ago and the more recent population of Indian-Americans who call the region home.

The national flags of Lithuania, Greece and India were flown in front of Nashua City Hall to mark the event.

All three sculptors, who worked with stone, spent about a month in Nashua to create their art after the symposium launched in early May. Residents hosted the artists in their homes, cooked meals and provided them with transportation.

The piece from Vasiliauskaite, placed in front of the Nashua Fire Rescue headquarters and Crown Hill station on East Hollis Street, is called "Speaking Bush" and features dozens of carved birds sitting in a bush, which she said symbolized the Earth.

"We all are very different, but we all have our own unique character," she wrote. "Some are lifted high and still continue to reach yet higher and others peacefully perch on a branch of the bush, and yet others try to hide inside."

Speaking on her birthday, which of course led to a round of singing, Vasiliauskaite said she is happy that many people from her native land found happiness in Nashua.

Vasili opted to create his sculpture, called "Between," as a composition that offers an environment for dialogue around the concept of inequality.

His piece is on Front Street, near The Apartments at Cotton Mill. Vasili’s work rests in the shadows of old manufacturing mills that once employed generations of Greek immigrants who settled in Nashua.

"We were lucky meeting many people from the city," Vasili said, speaking for all the artists. "We are leaving with very nice memories."

Subbanna’s work attracted the most attention during the symposium tour.

Located on Main Dunstable Road near the youth soccer fields, his "Stay Connected" piece offers the viewer an opportunity to sit and play the ancient game of mancala.

Historians believe the game originated thousands of years ago in Africa and made its way to India, where it is still played in rural parts of the subcontinent. Mancala is played on a board with 14 pits and pieces (oftentimes marbles, stones, beans or seeds), with the objective of capturing more pieces than the opponent.

In the context of Subbanna’s piece, he said it is rare to find activities where people gather and spend time playing games and interacting with one another in an increasingly high-tech world.

"Most of my work goes into private collections, but to bring a sculpture into a public space is much more important for me," he said. "Since it was a public space, I thought it would be very nice for a sculpture that brings people closer to the world."

Several Indian-Americans were present, including state Rep. Latha Mangipudi; Sudhakara Rao, of the New England Kannada Koota; and Dr. Matcheri Keshavan, of Harvard Medical Facility. The city also welcomed Ambassador Riva Ganguly Das, who came to New York as consul general of India.

The city held its first international sculpture symposium in 2008, modeled after a similar event held at the Andres Institute of Art in nearby Brookline. The art-filled festivities expose Greater Nashua to different cultures and sculpture techniques.

There are now 26 sculptures in the city.

Chris Garofolo can be reached at 594-6465, cgarofolo@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_Chris.