rich bergen works on the inaugural sculpture for the sculpture walk. (photo by tom dorsey / salina journal) | buy journal photos


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rich bergen creating original sculpture for chamber, sdi


by gary demuth | salina journal

sculptor rich bergen is turning a discarded selection of round mill plates into big coins.

bergen is welding these “coins” into a tumbling formation along a long metal tube, topped by a metal disc designed to chime at the turn of a handle.

the completed sculpture, standing about 12 feet high and titled “wheels of commerce,” will be displayed in front of the salina area chamber of commerce, 120 w. ash.

it will serve as the initial offering for sculpturetour salina, an exhibition of sculptures from around the u.s. to be placed along a three-block stretch of santa fe avenue from may 2011 through april 2012.

the public unveiling of bergen’s sculpture will be at 4:30 p.m. sept. 2 at the salina area chamber of commerce.

four months ago, salina area chamber of commerce and salina downtown inc. officials approached bergen, son of acclaimed kansas sculptor richard bergen, to create an original sculpture to tie in with the sculpturetour project.

“they wanted to use it as a marketing tool to get the sculpturetour on the map,” bergen said.

a nationwide search is under way to select about 22 sculptures to be placed on a series of pedestals on santa fe avenue from mulberry to ash streets.

artists can download applications from entry deadline is nov. 1. a panel of judges will make final selections by dec. 15.

phyll klima, director of salina downtown inc., said bergen’s sculpture is intended to show both salina residents and potential applicants an example of what will be installed at sculpturetour salina.

“it’ll also give our installation crew an opportunity to install a piece before next year,” she said.

bergen’s sculpture is scheduled to be installed aug. 30.

klima said sculpturetour salina organizers wanted to kick off the sculpture tour project with an initial work created by a skilled local sculptor, using materials indigenous to salina.

thus the round mill plates, donated by salina’s adm milling.

“(the mill plates) are something they considered trash, and now it’s being turned into art,” klima said. “(adm milling) is a great part of our commercial history, and they’re still part of our business community. i’m excited for them to see their trash turned into treasure.”

klima said bergen’s sculpture will be welded to a large steel base, manufactured by grain belt supply in salina, and anchored to the ground.

bergen was given free rein to create whatever sculpture he wished, as long as it incorporated mill plates and had a theme pertaining to the salina area chamber of commerce.

the thought of using the mill plates as coins inspired “wheels of commerce,” bergen said.

he used five mill plates and angled them along a thick metal tube with quarter-inch steel rods to make it appear as if the plates were cascading down the tube.

“they’re like big coins, when you flip a coin into the air and it spins,” bergen said.

at the top of the tube will be a metal disc with thin steel rods welded inside. when a crank is turned at the bottom of the tube, the rods will chime inside the disc.

“it’ll sound kind of like a cash register,” bergen said.

bergen said he received a small fee for the sculpture, the amount of which he declined to disclose, for “overhead and materials.” he’ll also retain ownership of the sculpture after it is removed from the chamber of commerce.

“as far as i know, it’ll be a temporary exhibit,” bergen said. “i know it will be there for a year, and then they might come up with a different concept for the next year.”

bergen said that even if he’s not making a lot of money with this sculpture, he’s happy to contribute to what he hopes will be a successful annual art project for the community.

“i’ve seen sculpture tours in other towns, and i’ve always wondered why we didn’t do it,” he said. “i’m glad we’re doing it, and i’m glad it’s going to be changing every year. it’ll keep things fresh and give other artists the opportunity to display their work.”

nreporter gary demuth can be reached at 822-1405 or by e-mail at [email protected].

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