Public Art Exhibition result of labor of love

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My father is a retired ceramics professor at a Midwestern university. When I was a kid I loved to tag along with him to check the progress of his kilns.

The kiln room would be oppressively hot and we'd sometimes have to yell above the roar of the gas and the heat, especially if more than one kiln was firing. He'd put on a pair of heavy work gloves, pull out one of the kiln's porous bricks and peer inside to see how the cones were bending.

He'd adjust whatever needed to be adjusted and then we'd head for home, Ieaving a trail of clay dust footprints behind us.

As I grew older, my trips to the kiln room waned and my involvement with art did too. So, the fact that part of my job at the Community Foundation gets me back into the art world makes me happy.

You see, every two years, a colleague and I, along with the Public Art Fund Advisory Committee, manage the Public Art Exhibition on Hilton Head Island.

I call the exhibition my labor of love. We start the process more than a year in advance. Our call for entry goes to thousands of sculptors and we receive hundreds of submissions. Our jury - comprised of artists, community leaders and a curatorial consultant from Telfair Museums - selects 20 of the most interesting pieces.

These works of art are temporarily installed at Coastal Discovery Museum, surrounded by the beauty of nature.

This year's artists come from as far away as Montana and as close as the Lowcountry. They spent two days installing their pieces - with the help of cranes and other machinery and workers from The Greenery.

Our goal is to make public art, well... public. Thus, we offer opportunities for visitors to get engaged. You can vote for your favorite piece, with the top three vote-getting artists receiving a cash award.

We're also running a Facebook contest this year. Just post a photo of your favorite sculpture on our Facebook page and we'll randomly select one winner, who can then choose a local arts organization to receive a $5,000 grant from the Community Foundation.

Also new this year, one of our sculptures will be installed at Hilton Head Regional Airport.

At the end of the exhibition we'll announce our Purchase Prize winner. This is the sculpture the Public Art Fund will purchase and add to the island's public art collection, which has grown to 10 pieces since the first piece was installed in 2010.

The exhibition is the only one like it in the area and draws visitors from across the country. Admission is free and you can see the artwork during regular museum hours.

My very active 90-year-old father still throws and sells pottery, and I hope he'll continue to do so for years to come. I also hope I can be involved with this labor of love for many years.

The 2018 Public Art Exhibition on Hilton Head Island runs through January 2019. For more information visit hhipublicart.org.

Jean Heyduck is vice president for marketing and communications at Community Foundation of the Lowcountry.

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