Heather Tritchka ’98 stands beside her artwork. Madeleine Jepson. | Col­legian

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.”