hroughout town, there are many sculptures standing proudly in parks or on various street corners. Each has special significance for at least one and perhaps hundreds of locals. Some of the figures have been in place for some time, others have come and gone.
Each year Carbondale Public Arts Commission (CPAC) accepts submissions from sculptors for the opportunity to have their work displayed for the year. In fact, the submission deadline for 2020 is just around the corner — Feb. 2. Leslie Lindberg with Carbondale Public Works says, “we would love everybody to participate” and she hopes for lots of submissions from local artists. To submit a piece one would go to callforentry.org or visit the Town’s website.
If someone especially likes a piece they can purchase it from the artist and then donate it to the town. This way the sculpture would stay standing and not be replaced by a new one the upcoming year. The artist can also donate the sculpture to the town to keep it on permanent display. Then according to Lindgerb “CPAC would discuss the maintenance, the cost to keep it, where it would be located…before they vote on whether to accept it or not ” for permanent display.
Lindberg is currently in the process of taking inventory of the permanent fixtures in town. There are approximately 35 statues on that list. These range from Jamie Burns’ “Ernesto” — the bison on Highway 133 which was bought and donated to the town in 2015 — to Stephen Lock’s “Helping Hands” — located next to the Near New since 1991.
Even Lindberg is a little hazy on the origin story of the “Helping Hands” sculpture stating, “it’s kind of a grey area on how we got that…” The artist was left to fill in the blanks the best he could.
Lock came to Carbondale from England in 1986, “with a backpack and about 200 bucks.” He knew “immediately this was the place that I needed to be.” He began working with blacksmiths here, including Will Perry and John Hoffman, and established his first business, Blue Herring Forge, on Buggy Circle adjacent to both Perry’s and Hoffman’s blacksmithing businesses at the time. Today Lock runs Flying Dog Forge on Prince Creek Road.
Upon arrival to Carbondale, Lock was struck by the outgoing nature of the locals and their tendency to lend a helping hand to one another. Within a few years of his arrival he was asked to submit a model for a competition sponsored by Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities (CCAH), now known as Carbondale Arts. The winner of the competition was to be commissioned to make their model a full sized statue.
Lock submitted his “Helping Hands” model and won the competition. The sculpture was designed as an ode to the generous nature of this community which Lock revered. The sculpture still stands in the same place after nearly 30 years.
The plaque at the statue reads “‘Helping Hands’ by Stephen Lock, Sponsored by CCAH May 1991.” The plaque is not immediately noticeable due to a town bench blocking it from view.
CPAC and Lock have been in touch regarding a “facelift”, as Lock puts it, of the sculpture. The refurbishment would likely require a powder coating. Lindberg recalls one bid for powder coating the sculpture being $1,200.
There is also some talk about relocating the statue. Lock says he loves where it is now but is open to the possibility of it being moved. He added, “as long as it remains in Carbondale and is accessible that’ll be fine.”
The town has increasingly supported artists over the years. It’s a good thing too because there has long been a creative spark in this town which continues to burn brighter each passing year. Sculptors such as Lock are encouraged to submit their entries for the upcoming annual display.