book-sculpture

Pictured from left to right: Commissioner Jill Burgin, Commissioner Ken Travis, Commissioner Mark Gorman, Valentine Adams, Mayor Regina Smithson, Wanda Bruce Graham, Debbie Heibert, Susan Earl; Photo courtesy of Debbie and Skip Heibert

By LANDON WOODROOF

When the Friends of the Brentwood Library organization turned 40 years old last year, members decided they wanted to do something special to mark the occasion.

On a routine basis, the group provides funding to put new books on the shelf or to purchase new pieces of technology. For this anniversary celebration, the FOBL chose to go a different route.

They commissioned local artist and military veteran, Valentine Adams, to sculpt a bench that would represent the importance of the Brentwood Library to the community. That bench sculpture, “Read and Unwind,” was unveiled to the public Tuesday afternoon in front of the library.

“We’re 40-plus years and counting and so honored at this opportunity to continue our legacy of giving to and supporting our library,” FOBL President Wanda Bruce Graham said at a ceremony held before the unveiling.

Graham thanked Library Director Susan Earl for the work she does to better the library. She also expressed gratitude to the Public Works department employees and others who moved the bench from Adams’s house to the library.

Debbie Heibert was the President of the FOBL at the time the bench was commissioned. She introduced Adams to the audience.

“He is a combat veteran, and he became a metal sculptor as a post-retirement second chapter in his life,” she explained. She also noted that Adams and his family were members of the FOBL even before the group commissioned him.

When he took to the podium, Adams thanked everyone involved in making the public debut of his artwork a reality.

“One thing I learned in 23 years of military service is that when you wear medals on your chest, when you have accolades in a uniform, you have a lot more to thank than yourself for the opportunity to do that,” he said. “There are a lot of people there in the background that make that happen.”

Adams works mainly in repurposed metals and said he considered himself a “metal historian” as much as a metal artist. The bench at the library was made of metals from several different sources, including a junkyard in Massachusetts belonging to a man who Adams said helped clear out metal debris from New York after 9/11.

Brentwood has been a big inspiration for Adams ever since he moved here. He described it as being the type of town where neighbors are eager to help neighbors.

“I grew up with that in a small town decades ago and I thought it was along gone until I came here,” he said.

That spirit of cooperation is what helps communities endure through difficult periods, he said.

“The only thing you have is the mortar of this community to get you through that,” Adams said. “And I’m here because I feel the spirit of that in this place. I don’t want to go anywhere else. This is my forever home.”

In discussing his sculpture, Adams drew attention to the fact that it was not a technically flawless piece of work. That was intentional, though.

“You’re gonna see in this sculpture there’s a lot of little imperfections but there’s a lot of little imperfections in us as individuals,” he said.

In an artist’s statement on the Brentwood Buzz library news site, Adams provided some insight into the design of the bench sculpture. He looked to history for guidance, specifically the artistic legacy of the American Indians who once called the library site home.

“I was inspired by the skill, patience and technique these native artisans employed to make this art and how the carvings, like the spiraled frieze carving running up a roman column, depicted the history and ceremonies of their culture,” he wrote.

Towards the end of his talk, Adams summed up his personal feelings about his accomplishment and the day his latest creation was installed at its new home.

He said, “It’s a masterwork and to put a brushwork on the opus that is everything this library is to this community is a huge honor to me, and I take it very seriously.”