Although black bears haven’t been sighted in Hillsdale county in many years, locals had an opportunity to see the black bear statues sculptor Heather Tritchka ’98 is creating at her studio space at 42 Union St.
The grand opening of Studio 42 Saturday afternoon featured Tritchka’s sculptures of the mother bear and the framework for the sculptures of her two cubs, as well as the work of several other local artists.
Tritchka said $47,380 of the $92,440 needed to complete the statue has been already been covered. Two memorial park benches have been donated, and will be placed near the bear statues along the Baw Beese Trail, Tritchka said.
“We’re about halfway there, and the main expense is getting it cast in bronze,” Tritchka said.
The clay sculpture of the mother bear is nearly complete. Tritchka said she will continue refining the mother bear’s fur and claws based off a real bear hide she was able to borrow for the project.
“It’s a hide stretched over a form, but it’s great for figuring out fur thickness, especially around the neck and the ears and the eyes,” Tritchka said.
The mother will stand on her hind legs, alert and observing her environment. Tritchka said she added a tree trunk next to the mother to help support the statue’s weight.
Tritchka hasn’t started the clay sculpting for the mother bear’s two cubs yet. She is still creating the metal and plaster framework that supports the clay exterior — a more rigid framework than she has used for her previous projects she said.
One cub will be standing, and the other will be seated and holding a branch. Tritchka said she designed the posture and spacing of the cubs to allow small children to interact with the statues. Although the cubs will be modeled after photos and observation of real bears, Tritchka said the metal and plaster framework as it is right now reminds her more of an ewok and Sid the sloth from “Ice Age.”
The studio’s opening event also featured senior Madeline Richards’ paintings and drawings. Her work included both model- and imagination-based portraits. She said she enjoys the nuance and emotion that goes into painting portraits.
“There’s a layer of art psychology,” Richards said. “People like to look at pictures that look like humans because we like to look at what looks like us. You can relate to them very easily, and also there’s this aspect that I get to know someone on such a deep level. It’s really a powerful thing to capture not only their likeness, but a layer of who they are.”
Her work included two portraits she painted while studying at the Florence Academy of Art during the summer of 2017, as well as drawings she completed of a fellow Hillsdale student.
“I loved capturing who they were in these paintings,” Richards said of the Italian portraits. “She was very calm and serene. She made me feel peaceful while painting her. He had this energy that was a little bit subdued but still very powerful.”
She said she plans to attend graduate school for painting and drawing, where she will be able to continue developing her skills as an artist.
“The thing that I keep in mind when I’m in the studio is to always paint with integrity and speak my truths,” Richards said. “I don’t just want to paint what people want to see because that’s not truthful. I’m still growing and finding out what I want to say with my art, but that’s a lifelong pursuit.”
Hillsdale Academy Art Teacher Jennifer Lehman displayed oil and watercolor paintings based on photography from her trip to Venice, Italy, last April. She said she plans to follow up her yearlong study of the vibrant canals and architecture of Venice with a series of paintings based on her photography of Rome. Her Rome paintings will include several larger pieces, she said.
“It’s nice for big paintings and big artwork, to be able to use an art studio space like this,” Lehman said. “It’s a great outreach to the community.”
The event also featured artwork from 24 artists from St. Paul’s Ability Resource Center, a support network for individuals with developmental disabilities. The artists, who ranged from 6 to 55 years old, created everything from drawings to watercolor paintings during their weekly art classes. Some of the work was abstract, while other pieces related to fall or winter themes will be displayed during SPARC’s upcoming Snowball Dance, SPARC representative Becky Johnson said.
Event organizer and Heritage Association member Connie Sexton said the combination of different artists at the event provided a fun and compelling atmosphere. She said the Heritage Association’s art events are a way to contribute to the community that has helped support the association’s projects.
“I can’t believe it’s almost been two years,” Sexton said. “It’s been a good ride so far, so fun, and the community has been so uplifting and so helpful every step of the way — supporting us, giving to us, and just opening every door possible for us. That’s one of the reasons we want to give back with our art events.”