In September, we told you the story of traveling Idaho artist Ken Newman and his wife Debbie, who tour the country each year, showcasing Ken’s art. When last we left them, the Newmans were in Grand Rapids, Michigan at ArtPrize8 with the bronze sculpture titled “The Last Whistle.”
The sculpture of a blue-collar worker coming off his shift and heading wearily home did not win the top prize, but the couple says it got enormous support. It placed in the top 25 in Sculpture and the top 100 of over 1,400 works of art at the competition. Each piece was placed around town, so people could walk up and check them out. The Newmans say "The Last Whistle" had an outdoor venue and with six days of wind and rain it was tough to compete with the warmer, drier, indoor spots.
During the competition, the Newmans asked visitors to share and write down their blue collar stories. Some of those conversations got very emotional.
“Some men just walked up and shook Ken’s hand and thanked him for creating the sculpture, then walked away with tears in their eyes,” says Debbie Newman.
On the base of the bronze, they wrote “shared memories keep history and cultures alive” and then stenciled the names of the blue collar jobs that were shared.
“It was so rewarding to see grandparents sharing stories of their parents and grandparents who worked in the trades and explained the sacrifices they made for their families,” says Debbie Newman.
The pair hopes to write a book about the blue collar stories they heard during the competition.
Even though they didn’t win, the Newmans say a Foundation in Saginaw, Michigan purchased the piece. They say Saginaw is a factory town that lost blue collar jobs when the automotive industry collapsed. Right now, "The Last Whistle" is at the Saginaw Art Museum until a permanent spot in the community can be found for the sculpture. The piece should be installed in its new home in the spring.
"The Last Whistle" is an edition of five, so the Newmans are hoping other factory towns might be interested in owning a bronze of sculpture.
As for the traveling pair, they just got back home to Idaho after a 20-day, 5,700-mile trip to the foundry and a show in Maryland. They plan to spend a week in the Gem State, before heading out on the road again.
Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio
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