The entrance to Wellesley Free Library now greets patrons with an original bronze sculpture from Nancy Schön called “Reach for Knowledge.”
The artist, best known locally for her Make Way for Ducklings sculpture in the Boston Public Garden, took part in a discussion last week at the library (see Wellesley Media recording) to dive into her artistic vision for the sculpture as well as to talk about her career and the importance of public art. Library Director Jamie Jurgensen said at the outset of that discussion that “prior to meeting Nancy I was in awe of her work. And now I’m just in awe of her entire existence.”
As it turns out, the two are part of a mutual admiration society. Nancy Schön began her talk by thanking Jurgensen for her role in bringing the sculpture to Wellesley, quoting the library director as having said at the beginning of their relationship that “Art is a natural extension of, and enhances, the or a library’s mission.”
Schön (wearing a duck necklace) recounted how earlier in her career, before her Make Way for Duckling sculpture was installed in 1987, she did the rounds at galleries on Newbury Street with slides of her art and paid to have her art shown in competitions. “We artists in those times just didn’t understand that these galleries needed us. If they didn’t have us, they didn’t operate…”
She’s gone on in the years since the duckings sculpture to create other meaningful sculptures, including those that memorialize children who died but bring joy to other kids. She has often sculpted animals, from the tortoise and hare to raccoons, dogs, otters, and butterflies.
Schön showed an image of the new Wellesley sculpture in clay, and said that “something magical happens when you cast something in bronze…it’s always a surprise.”
It’s no surprise that Schön has sculpted works for libraries. She recalled as a 10-year-old some 85 years ago being introduced by a librarian to the works of Michelangelo. She has used libraries throughout her career to research animals (“I don’t have a zoo”) in working on sculptures.
She described the idea for her Wellesley piece as being inspired by the “universal concept of reaching for knowledge.”
The official unveiling of the sculpture took place this past Saturday afternoon. We’ve already added it to our outside Wellesley art gallery page.
The project was brought forth with support from private donors as well as the Wellesley Free Library Foundation and the Friends of the Wellesley Free Libraries.