Fourteen-acre sculpture park taking shape in West StockbridgeMore Info
West Stockbridge — This little town is about to hit the map as an important sculpture collection and a poetic meeting of contemporary architecture and landscape design is worked into a 14-acre slice of former quarry land that is almost the same size as the entire downtown.
The lime quarry and its surrounding land at the edge of the Mass Pike have been gently worked and enhanced for the installment of sculptures and other spaces. Right now the collection is mostly from the Russian Nonconformist Art movement of the 1950s to 1980s.
At what was an old lime quarry, Turn Park Art Space, named as a word play on “turnpike,” is set to officially open May 2017. It will initially hold 15 pieces, like Nicolay Silis’ “Don Quixote” who awaits, flower in hand, his moment in the sun after some time in storage on the property. Silis’ studio was a center for underground life of the intelligentsia during Soviet times. The artist lives and works in Moscow. Turn Park’s collection also has work by Silis’ contemporary Vladimir Lemport, as well as artist Nazar Bilyk and local sculptor Gene Montez Flores.
Turn Park founders Igor Gomberg and Katya Brezgunova visited the Berkshires and grew so enchanted they wanted to park the collection here and create something special.
Turn Park, a nonprofit, will focus on expanding its collection and will hold exhibitions and events. An amphitheater, for instance, built from locally sourced antique marble, is set below a gradually sloping hillside. There will be areas to inspire creative play in children, a cafe or restaurant, and a small shop for books and gifts.
Berkshires-based architect Grigori Fateyev is one of the architects, and Turn Park’s executive director. He worked closely with Moscow-based designer Alexander Konstantinov, who developed the original master plan, main themes and conceptual designs.
Fateyev met me at No. Six Depot and, from there, we walked over to the busy construction site. Ironically the site is on Moscow Road.
“That wasn’t my client’s doing,” Fateyev said with a laugh.
The architects designed the main structure at the park, known as the Gate House, and also the Precipice House, a contemporary tree house-like structure not yet built. Konstantinov designed the Gate House, with its curved roof, to echo the surrounding hillside. The Precipice House and a 2000-square foot art gallery are also planned for the site.
As we walk to the Gate House, we run into a couple that live in New York City and have a home in nearby Austerlitz, New York. Alan Phillips and Charlotte Swatton had just marveled at Fateyev’s work on their way to No. Six Depot for lunch and stopped us.
“I appreciate your courage, and tell your benefactor I appreciate his courage,” a gushing Phillips said to Fateyev before moving on.
Phillips had seen that not the usual New England farmhouse or colonial thing was happening here. And why not have the modern contrast? The building is a sculpture, and it breathes the land and the sky in. The Gate House flows with the surrounding meadows and hills and quarry stone. You can walk through it, gaps in the roof shoot light down through the walkway. You can walk on top of it like a bridge into the rest of the park. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors slide open. The ground around it is paved with stones cut from the quarry. The parking lot, instead of the usual gravel, will be filled with rounded riverbed stones and an abundance of trees and native grass plantings.
Fateyev said the park’s designers found inspiration for the stucco exterior at the Gate House from other stucco examples like Chesterwood in Stockbridge and the Frelinghuysen Morris House & Studio in Lenox. This stucco is latex-based but looks like the traditional material.
The building is furiously being worked on inside and out. We walk all around it and up on the roof, where granite tiles are being installed.
We look out, and Fateyev says most of the park will be pathless and “wild.”
Fateyev describes the design for the Gate House and other structures on the property as “mythopoetic,” and striving to “pick up a lot of allusions.” We look up at the gaps that let the sky through from the walkway, and he says the building is less about “function” and more about feeling. “It’s a story — it’s evocative psychology – what you feel walking through it.”
The Gate House should be done by the end of this month and the park ready for a “soft opening” at the end of November, he said. Right now Fateyev is working on pulling a board of directors together and generally rallying support, which already, he says, the park has gained in abundance, especially from the town.
He’s also talking to Mass Live Arts about a possible mini theatre festival, and other ideas for how to use the space are being bounced around. Other things are still being worked through, like whether to charge an entrance fee and how much. Fateyev says there will most definitely be a local discount.
We go to the quarry, blasted in the 1940s. The water is low because of the regional drought. A water snake wiggles across it. Fateyev says he’s seen a “prehistoric-looking” turtle here. And the place is loaded with dogwood trees and thyme. Across the lake and framed by the rock face rests a rounded sculpture carved by Silis from a boulder.
We hike up to the 60-foot ledge overlooking the quarry, passing a brief view of the Mass Pike. It is a straight drop. “There will be a railing here,” Fateyev says.
We walk to the marble amphitheater and look at the masterful stone masonry, and the gentle tilt of the hillside above it surrounded by meadows. Fateyev notes the “sacred grove” quality that is emerging here. He also points out how the disappearing leaves will change the late fall and winter views. “With all the leaves, you’re hardly aware that you’re in the center of town.”
We take in this scene – the pike on one side, the town on the other. Fateyev says the park “shifts the whole focus of town” by “pushing Main Street back.”
We talk for a moment about the economic boost this could give both the town and south Berkshire County.
“This is going to pull people into West Stockbridge right off the Pike,” he said.