Growing up, I remember it was the cool kids that played with Pokemon cards, Pogs, Furbies, and GigiPets. If you have no idea what any of these things are, don’t worry because now there is a new “latest and greatest” with the idea of “Pokemon GO!” –an app on cellphones that has users chasing virtual monsters around them by using maps and landmarks. The app can be distracting has caused players to venture accidentally over illegal boarders, trespass, and even crash motor vehicles due to distraction; however, in addition to entertainment, it also has a positive side: It gets people up and on their feet and exploring the world around them. Not to mention, there are a lot less monsters in the world when they catch them for us 🙂
I’ll get back to Pokemon later, but I want to share with you a local gem that also has people up and on their feet and better than just exploring, it has them experiencing. It’s an unexpected and unique tribute to art, nature and the beauty of human creativity, right here in the Souhegan Valley…
Andres Institute of Art is New England’s largest outdoor sculpture park where you can find absolutely breath-taking beauty, intrigue, solitude and peace, as well as stories and legacies from over 41 represented countries, spanning decades.
It was clear in speaking with Robin Clark, (Board President) Paul Andres, (Founder) and John Weidman (Master Sculptor and Resident Artist), that they have an unprecedented love for what they do and why they are doing it.
20 Years ago, engineer Paul Andres purchased Big Bear Mountain in Brookline, NH and moved into the house at the top of the mountain. As a lover of art and nature, he began purchasing sculptures and art to decorate his new outdoor home. John Wiedman, a world-known sculptor who resided in Brookline, and Paul teamed up to begin creating more sculptures on the mountain. Part of this endeavor included a yearly symposium in which artists would come, learn, and create; apparently a successful venture as they just hosted their 18th International Sculpture Symposium!
Each piece has an amazing story behind it and this unique adventure has you looking at, touching, and experiencing the art while getting out and about in soothing nature. Like Pokemon GO, it brings technology into the great outdoors. (Consequently, many of the sculptures have been homes to Pokemon and led users with the app to the park for exploration –hey, when you gotta’ catch em’ all, you gotta’ catch em’ all!)
What Do You Love About Doing Business / Living in the Souhegan Valley?
Artist John Wiedman told me about how much he loves the local community and learning about people in this area as well as all of the sheer beauty in the area and the proximity to nature everywhere that you could possibly want to be. Robin Clark agreed in saying that one of her favorite things about this area is the diversity –going from sleepy, cozy New England town to a bustling city in minutes and both rich with culture of their very own. I love how she described it to me as, “Remote, yet integrated.”
What Do You Enjoy About Being a Part of the Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce?
Andres Institute of Art is a non-profit organization supported by the visionary founder, Paul Andres, as well as community and individual contributions. John told me about stone and granite companies that donate tons of raw material to their yearly symposium, Robin told me about the many families that work together to host and feed the artists while they are here, and they host a weekly bingo game in the Great Bear Lodge, a venue owned by the Institute at the bottom of the mountain which helps them raise funds for the organization as well. They also look for ways in which to save money, like having people bring their own maps when exploring and… I judged by the temperature in the workshop that they also don’t need their heat as high as I do in the winter 🙂
The biggest benefit to being a part of the Chamber is all of the interconnection of local business and opportunities to share and learn from the members. Robin said she would love to use the Chamber as a resource in helping establish a presence and awareness in the local community. The Great Bear Lodge can hold 250 people and is available for community events, networking events, or groups as a meeting place, artists’ workshops and collaboration, as well as classes, parties, and yes, even weddings have been held there! They love being able to offer our community a valuable resource.
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John is also the director of the Nashua Sculpture Symposium, which allows him to make his gifts even more accessible to people as it is a more flat and level terrain and is able to reach a completely different, as well as many who have experienced both venues, audience.
I loved Robin’s answer to this! When she was first moving to New Hampshire, from Chicago (something she was not entirely thrilled about at the time), her realtor showed her and her husband their Merrimack home which was then owned by Paul Andres’ former college roommate. The realtor actually took them to the Institute and that is how Robin first knew of it’s existence! Her hesitation was gone, and she has called NH home ever since.
I encourage you to go catch them all –go check out every sculpture and trail that the Andres’ Institute of Art has proudly displayed. Walk slowly, walk briskly, go by bike or by snowmobile, stand and take it in, sit and contemplate, take pictures, post them on Facebook or Instagram, take a selfie in front of your favorite sculpture if you want; however you choose to experience it, let the imagination and intrigue be a part of you forever.