The Georges River Land Trust announced the donation of the studio and home of nationally renowned artist Bernard Langlais to the Land Trust by the Wisconsin-based Kohler Foundation. The November 18 transfer of the 90-acre property to the Georges River Land Trust represents the culmination of three years of art conservation dedicated to the works of art and buildings at the site. A number of sculptures were included in the donation.
Maine-born artist Bernard Langlais created a body of playful, larger than life, outdoor sculptures at his home in Cushing between the 1960’s and 70’s until his untimely death in 1977. For the next 35 years his wife, Helen, a local schoolteacher, curated his work. Since her passing, a unique partnership between the Georges River Land Trust, Colby College Museum of Art, the Kohler Foundation and Maine Preservation has been forged to preserve an artist-built environment that celebrates Langlais’ sense of place and his whimsical creations.
Originally bequeathed the entire estate, Colby College has added extensively to the collection maintained at its Museum of Art and has also curated the entire body of work, numbering more than 3,500 pieces. Unable to take on full preservation of the site, Colby College transferred the Cushing property to the Kohler Foundation which undertook and funded the massive preservation project. The home and studio spaces were stabilized under the direction of Maine Preservation, and Kohler Foundation‘s team of art conservators restored fragile outdoor wooden sculptures, paintings, and small works. Many may now be seen at the nearly 60 non-profit institutions who received gifts of art, creating the Langlais Art Trail. More information can be found at www.langlaisart.org.
The Kohler Foundation, known nationally for their work to preserve art enivornments, gifted the property to the Georges River Land Trust which will conserve the land as open space, and utilize the property as a culturally significant nature preserve for the enjoyment of the public. The cooperative efforts of these organizations combine to achieve a protected landscape while highlighting a unique “artscape” in midcoast Maine.
The Langlais Sculpture Preserve retains several of Langlais’s outdoor sculptures in situ, including the thirteen-foot Horse — Langlais’s first monumental outdoor work and a landmark of Cushing’s River Road, his satirical depiction of Richard Nixon in a marshy pond, and his sculptural homage to Christina Olson, the local woman featured in Andrew Wyeth’s 1948 masterpiece, Christina’s World, among other works.
Though much has been done to restore the sculptures and stabilize the Langlais home and studio, the next phase of the project includes improvements to the property to enhance the experience for visitors to the property, finalize the energy retrofits for the structures and build the long-term capacity for the stewardship of the property in perpetuity.
Art lovers, Langlais followers and conservation enthusiasts can look forward to a formal opening of the Langlais Sculpture Preserve in the fall of 2016. The Preserve will be the premier stop on the Langlais Art Trail, incorporating a number of the award-winning sculptor’s signature works of art, the home and studio where they were produced, a fully accessible sculpture garden and a traditional hiking trail.
Photo caption: (L-R): Alvin Chase, former Board President of Georges River Land Trust; Annette Naegel, Conservation Program Manager; Gail Presley former Executive Director of Georges River Land Trust and Jim Robbins, President of the Board of Directors give a high-five to one of Bernard Langlais’s larger-than-life sculptures to celebrate the transfer of ownership of the Langlais Sculpture Preserve to Georges River Land Trust.