AVA - a Lebanon-based art gallery, studio and educational space - will celebrate the official dedication of a new sculpture center on Thursday.
The center houses studio space for woodworking, metal and glass forging, welding, and other three-dimensional art forms AVA has been unable to offer in its existing facilities.
AVA began laying plans for a new sculptural center under the leadership of former executive director Bente Torjusen about five years ago. The building is officially named in her honor. “It’s a bit overwhelming,” Torjusen said. “It is amazing what a group of people can achieve when working together with a vision.”
AVA hopes the center will fill a void in the Upper Valley. Arts like stone carving, metal forging, and glass molding are generally not available to the general public, said AVA’s current executive director Trip Anderson. “They’re available to specialized college students or master artists in their private studios,” he said. “But to put it all together in a purpose-built building like this is very unique.”
Professional artists can rent studio space during the day, and AVA plans to start rolling out classes for the general public in the evenings starting in the fall.
But offering facilities for the sculptural arts -- especially to the general public -- also comes with health and safety risks. A power saw can easily cut across a finger, and kilns reach temperatures of a couple thousand degrees. “Not to sound callous, but there’s only so much you can do with a watercolor, or a chalk pastel,” Anderson said. “You’re not going to do a lot of quick, physical harm.”
For that reason, AVA is taking precautions with its public programming in the new space. For example, all students will be required to take an orientation course on the facility and the machines, and instructors will be joined by an assistant for an extra pair of eyes.
The new building is designed with artists in mind and an attention to sustainability. “This has been sort of a dream client,” said architect Stu White. He pointed to several features -- like primary paint colors and windows designed to pull light into the room -- that create a more welcoming space for artists. A solar array on the roof should generate enough power for the building, he said.
The ceremony Thursday will feature live music and demonstrations of some of the equipment the center will offer.