All systems go for 15th Nashua International Sculpture Symposium; opening reception May 12

As the first hints of spring seem to finally be trickling into the region these days, the thoughts of many Greater Nashua folks are turning once again toward the annual celebration of the arts known as the Nashua International Sculpture Symposium.

Although the upcoming NISS, which opens May 12 and runs through June 4, marks the widely-anticipated event’s 15th year, preparing for this year’s event has been a joint venture of both joyous celebration and solemn, fond remembrance.

Celebration, because that cussed pandemic is all but behind us, allowing the symposium to return to the glorious pre-mask, pre-distancing, pre-isolation days, and solemn, fond remembrance, because this will be the first symposium without one of the event’s staunchest supporters, generous benefactors and a symposium co-founder, the late Meri Goyette.

When fellow arts advocate and supporter Kathy Hersh nominated Goyette several years ago for the state Council on the Arts’Individual Arts Patron Award, she referred to Goyette, who passed last summer at age 95, as “the Grand Dame of Arts in Nashua.

“Meri’s fingerprint is on everything ‘art’ throughout our city and beyond,” Hersh wrote in her nomination letter.

So what could be more fitting for this year’s symposium than coming up with a title, or theme, that evokes memories of and pays tribute to that “grand dame”?

Organizers did just that, choosing “Merriment,” which, according to symposium president and The Picker Artists building owner Gail Moriarty, was initially written “Meriment.”

“We figured people would think we misspelled “merriment” so we decided to leave in the second “R,” Moriarty said with a laugh. Organizers were confident, she added, that people who knew Goyette and her strong ties to the arts scene – which is probably the vast majority of Nashuans – would instantly see the connection.

The public is invited to the opening reception, and from the sounds of what organizers have planned for the closing ceremony, it will be well worth attending.

In a departure from most previous years, when the completed sculptures were installed upon pedestals in, for instance, public parks, along walking and biking trails, in the center of roundabouts and near the entrances to the city called “gateways,” the works created this year will become part of the rail trail that runs along a section of East Hollis Street, across Commercial Street and along the northern boundary of Nashua Fire Rescue Station 4.

The logistics are still being worked out, Moriarty said, such as exactly where the sculptures will be placed.

Historically, the beginnings of what would grow into today’s Nashua International Sculpture Symposium go back to 2007, when Hersh and Goyette drove out to Brookline to meet with acclaimed sculptor John Weidman in his studios at the Andres Institute of Art.

Inspired, the trio recruited other like-minded folks to join the project, and the proverbial ball was soon rolling along quite smoothly.

Some 15 years later, as folks involved in the event like to mention every now and then, Nashua is still the only city in the United States that hosts an annual international sculpture symposium.

Dean Shalhoup’s column appears weekly in The Sunday Telegraph.

He may be reached at 594-1256 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com.