Reaching for the sky: Harold Grinspoon lends outdoor artworks to Look Park

  • Two of the four sculptures created by Harold Grinspoon, installed at Look Park. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Adam Suska, a master woodworker, installs the last of four sculptures created by Harold Grinspoon, at Look Park on Wednesday, May 27, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Harold Grinspoon talks while overseeing the installation of four sculptures at Look Park, Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Harold Grinspoon, artist, works with Adam Suska, a master woodworker, to install the last of four sculptures at Look Park on Wednesday, May 27, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Two of the four sculptures created by Harold Grinspoon, installed at Look Park. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Adam Suska, a master woodworker, installs the last of four sculptures created by Harold Grinspoon, at Look Park on Wednesday, May 27, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 5/28/2020 12:43:29 PM

NORTHAMPTON — For decades, Harold Grinspoon built up a successful real estate business — big enough that in the early 1990s, he created a philanthropic organization, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, to enhance Jewish and community life in western Massachusetts and further afield.

But about six years ago, Grinspoon, who today is 90, turned to something else: wood sculpting.

The fruits of some of that work can now be found at Look Park, to which Grinspoon has lent four large wood sculptures. “The Beauty of Nature,” “Windows,” “Chroma Quartet” and, most recently, “Entwined,” have been set up on large bases and will be on display at the park for the next two years.

Jilian Larkin, Look Park’s executive director, said she and other staff are thrilled to have the art on hand, seeing it as a natural complement to the trees and fields; all of the pieces are constructed from found and reclaimed trees and branches. The artwork also seems a testament to Grinspoon’s appreciation for Look Park itself, a place he has visited frequently over the years, she says.

“He has a real affinity for the park, and we’re so happy he’s sharing his artwork with us,” Larkin said. “It’s a very generous gesture, and it gives us something new to offer visitors.”

On Wednesday, Grinspoon and members of his design team came to the park, near the tennis courts, to set up “Entwined,” two twisting sections from an oak branch that, cut in half, have been painted with swatches of yellow, blue and purple and curl around each other as they point skyward.

Grinspoon, who was born in Newton in 1929 and lives in Longmeadow, has been a longtime advocate for the outdoors — he’s still a regular hiker — and of the arts. Madeline Calabrese, art project manager for Grinspoon, describes him as a “visionary” who’s “always looking into the future” and conceiving of his next project. For years, Calabrese notes, Grinspoon would collect interesting pieces of wood during his walks, imagining some of them might be used for artwork; sometimes he would commission wood artists to turn the pieces into sculptures.

Beginning in 2014, Calabrese notes, Grinspoon got into that work himself when a much-loved cherry tree in his backyard came down. He decided to have the tree cut into four lengthwise strips and then, working with other designers and a team he assembled, he created his first work, “The Beauty of Nature” — four strips of smooth wood about 30 feet high that stand separately but curve toward each other.

Juliane Hiam, who does outreach for Grinspoon’s art projects, says he has no formal training in art but has learned much by observing other artists at work and by sharing ideas with a small team that does the actual cutting and processing of the wood. Grinspoon designed a number of miniature sculptures to serve as models for “The Beauty of Nature,” Hiam noted.

Calabrese says she’ll sometime make initial sketches of Grinspoon’s verbal description of a new sculpture, or he’ll make sketches of what he wants to see. “He’s very collaborative in his process, although he can be decisive and say ‘no,’” she said.

He’s also become increasingly prolific in the last several years and at this point has created about 100 sculptures, Calabrese said, while also segueing into designs that incorporate steel and glass and different finishes. His work has been displayed in numerous settings, including The Mount in Lenox (Edith Wharton’s home) and the 2018 exhibit “Crosstown” in Amherst, an outdoor installation that featured work from multiple artists.

That’s all while he tends to the work of his foundation, which since its founding in 1991 has donated over $230 million to programs supporting Jewish life, education, entrepreneurship, libraries, and more, according to the group’s website. Grinspoon is also now designing smaller sculptures that can be placed indoors, Calabrese noted.

“He shows no signs of slowing down — just tremendous energy,” she said.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.


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