Additional two-year grant from Wyeth Foundation helps seed new chapter

Land Trust receives Legacy grant for Langlais Sculpture Preserve, appoints director

Sat, 03/18/2023 - 3:45pm

Story Location:
Langlais Sculpture Preserve
576 River Road
Cushing, ME 04563
United States

CUSHING — In November 2022, the Langlais Sculpture Preserve was selected by the Ruth Foundation for the Arts (Ruth Arts) as an RDK Legacy grantee. The 90-acre former homestead of artist Bernard Langlais (1921–1977) and his wife, Helen Friend Langlais (1929–2010), managed by Georges River Land Trust, has received a $75,000 grant from a new fund dedicated to honoring regional and craft-based organizations and artist-built environments that Ruth DeYoung Kohler supported throughout her lifetime.

The RDK Legacy Fund provides support into the future for 38 U.S. arts and culture organizations. The Langlais Preserve was the only art environment in the Northeast selected for the program.

“This grant, and the sustained commitment from Ruth Arts is transformative for Georges River Land Trust and the Langlais Preserve,” said Land Trust board chair Lucy Crocker Abisalih, in a news release. “We now have the opportunity to develop the artist-built experience at the Preserve, while also advancing our environmental and educational mission.”

Georges River Land Trust has owned the Langlais Preserve since 2015, following a multi-year preservation effort by Kohler Foundation, Inc., and Maine Historic Preservation. Since that time, Langlais’s whimsical wood sculptures, accessible by a 1/4-mile ADA-compliant path, have brought over 6,000 visitors during the summer months alone, according to the release. A popular after-school program for the Cushing Community School and two seasons of lively summer camps at the Preserve explored the intersection of art and nature but were suspended in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other local and international events have taken place, including an annual seedling sale in coordination with Community School students, and the creation of a Buddhist sand mandala by an order of Tibetan monks visiting Maine for the first time.

Prompted by the Ruth Arts grant, the Land Trust has established a permanent executive staff position for the Langlais Preserve. Hannah W. Blunt, former Langlais curator at the Colby College Museum of Art and a key facilitator in the preservation of the Langlais site in the early 2010s, began this new role in February. One of her first actions as Director of the Langlais Preserve was to recruit an advisory board, which includes representatives from the Land Trust Board of Directors, the Colby Museum, and local artists and educators.

“I am honored to join the Georges River Land Trust team, to build on their stewardship efforts at Langlais, and to have local and national support in our vision for the Preserve,” said Blunt.

Even before officially starting her post, Blunt assisted the Land Trust in applying for a two-year, $65,000-grant to the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, to support improvements to the presentation and interpretation of the art at the Preserve, which includes more than a dozen conserved outdoor sculptures, as well as over one hundred weathered sculptural fragments that have remained in storage since their excavation by Kohler Foundation conservators. Last month, the Wyeth Foundation approved that grant, helping seed this new chapter at the beloved preserve.

“Visitors to the Langlais Preserve often refer to its uniqueness and its accessibility,” said Blunt. “It’s an art experience that’s down-to-earth, quite literally, and we want to draw that idea out more intentionally. It’s not a museum to Bernard Langlais, but a nature preserve bearing his and Helen’s name. Some of that nature is his art—the wooden bears and elephants and birds that he carved from local spruce and pine, capped with snow, or bathed in sun or veiled in mist. It’s an art of place; you can’t experience it anywhere but here.”

The Langlais Sculpture Preserve is open to the public for day-use. In addition to the ADA-accessible path around the sculptures, a 1/2-mile trail takes visitors inland into the wooded portion of the property. In summers past, the barn and workshop have been open to visitors on weekends and by appointment. The Land Trust hopes to increase access in summer 2023.