D&R Greenway News

Community-Wide Celebration of J. Seward Johnson’s Art Opens with The Awakening at D&R Greenway’s St. Michaels Farm Preserve

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEApril 20, 2023, Hopewell, NJ ~

HOPEWELL, NJ – The Hopewell Valley Arts Council and The Johnson Atelier are hosting a community-wide sculptural celebration this year, Seward Johnson | Celebrating the Everyday. This year-long public art project highlights the life and work of J. Seward Johnson II (1930-2020), a renowned sculptor known for his lifelike sculptures of everyday people. One of the major highlights of this project is Johnson’s monumental sculpture, The Awakening, at D&R Greenway’s St. Michaels Farm Preserve in Hopewell Township.

The Awakening, measuring 70-feet wide, is of a giant embedded in the earth, seemingly struggling to free himself from the ground. The installation has been funded by a generous grant to The Johnson Atelier from the Atlantic Foundation, a Johnson family foundation.

“Through this public art project, we are honoring the legacy of Seward,” said Carol Lipson, Executive Director of the Hopewell Valley Arts Council. “The Awakening is a testament to his creative thinking. We hope that the sculpture, surrounded by nature, will serve as a place for both personal reflection and community activity.”

An opening ceremony for The Awakening will be held on Sunday, May 21 from 11am to 1pm at D&R Greenway’s St. Michaels Farm Preserve. Members of the community are invited to attend this free art-filled celebration that will include dance, poetry, and music – all things that Seward Johnson loved.

“This project celebrates Seward’s spirit,” said Lynn DeClemente Losavio,
program officer at the Johnson Atelier. “He loved Hopewell Valley — the beautiful expanse of field and forest of St. Michaels Farm Preserve, a sense of well-being and return to nature. He would have loved people wandering, wondering, and finding their own story as they enjoy the surrounding trails and community. The giant really amplifies this feeling.”

D&R Greenway’s St. Michaels Farm Preserve was established in 2010 when the nonprofit land trust purchased the property from the Diocese of Trenton. Six miles of farm roads and wooded trails wind through 416 acres of preserved land, providing a place where community residents enjoy daily walks and visitors experience open space. The land where the sculpture is located was the site of Hopewell Borough’s 125th anniversary celebration and music festival in 2016.

“This temporary installation, The Awakening, invites people to pause and think about their role in protecting the Earth,” says Linda Mead, D&R Greenway’s president and CEO. Engaging people through art about the environment has been a feature of D&R Greenway’s work for many years. The land trust hosts regular gallery exhibits at their Johnson Education Center headquarters in Princeton. Mead continues, “We were approached by the Johnson Atelier and the Hopewell Valley Arts Council and wanted to be part of this community-wide celebration. We hope that The Awakening will introduce people to our preserve, where they can walk our trails and learn about land preservation. We also hope it will inspire thought about how each of us individually makes choices that affect the Earth and its resources. For me, this sculpture represents the struggles of humanity as we try to protect the Earth during a time of climate change and its impacts on plants and wildlife. While the art installation is temporary, the lands we preserve and steward are forever.”

In addition to The Awakening, fourteen of Johnson’s life-sized sculptures will be installed throughout Hopewell Valley for a special six-month exhibition, if fundraising permits. These sculptures will be placed in highly visible locations throughout Hopewell Township, Hopewell Borough, Pennington, and Titusville, including one at each school campus in Hopewell Valley Regional School District. The celebration will also include concerts, poetry readings, guest speaker talks, tours, art exhibitions and workshops featuring local artists. All funding for these sculptures will be crowd-sourced from community donations and local business sponsors.

“To complete this ambitious project, we need support from the community,” said Lipson. “We invite donations to this important initiative to help us bring Johnson’s vibrant and creative artwork to Hopewell Valley.”

Here are some fun facts about The Awakening by Seward Johnson, ©1980 The Seward Johnson Atelier, Inc.

Dimensions:
Head 169″ x 142″ x 56″H
Left Hand 42″ x 79″ x 59″H
Right Arm 108″ x 129″ x 254″H
Left Leg 148″ x 252.5″ x 132″H
Right Foot 47″ x 84″ x 67″H

Previous Locations include:
National Harbor, MD
Chesterfield, MO
Viterbo, Italy
Grounds For Sculpture, Hamilton, NJ
St. Michaels Farm Preserve, Hopewell, NJ

Seward Johnson’s motivation:
“I can only remember, when I started The Awakening, thinking two things. First, that by making the parts come out of the earth, I could make an awfully big fellow and only have to sculpt the parts that you saw. Then, that I was going to put him on a small country road. So when you came around the corner, there was suddenly this huge giant struggling out of the earth and you had chosen the wrong time to come around the corner. As I said, there are giants in every mythology, and there is also man breaking out of the earth in nearly every historical tradition. So the combination probably strikes a chord deep within the collective unconscious. Anyway, it’s fun for kids to get into his mouth.” –Seward Johnson

Reactions to the sculpture:
During installation, people on their way to various destinations would turn around and come watch and take photos, unaware of the preserve but excitedly promising to come back to hike the trails. Overwhelmingly positive reactions on social media – “I love BIG ART especially in green public spaces.”

For more information and to donate to the project, please visit www.hvartscouncil.org/sewardjohnson.

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BACKGROUND

The Hopewell Valley Arts Council is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to increasing art awareness and appreciation in the greater Hopewell Valley. We celebrate “art in the everyday” by cultivating all types of creative exploration and artistic expression, and encourage us all to see the beauty inherent in the simple and ordinary parts of day-to-day life. Through community collaborations, events, and art-based initiatives, the HV Arts Council highlights our local talents and enriches the cultural and creative life of our community.

D&R Greenway Land Trust is an accredited nonprofit that has reached a new milestone of over 22,000 acres of land preserved throughout central New Jersey since 1989. By protecting land in perpetuity and creating public trails, it gives everyone the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors. The Land Trust’s preserved farms and community gardens provide local organic food for residents of the region—including those most in need. Through strategic land conservation and stewardship, D&R Greenway combats climate change, protects birds and wildlife, and ensures clean drinking water for future generations. D&R Greenway’s mission is centered on connecting land with people from all walks of life.

D&R Greenway’s outdoor trails and labyrinth are open. Visit our Facebook and Instagram pages and www.drgreenway.org to learn about our latest news and other programs and events. D&R Greenway Land Trust, One Preservation Place, Princeton NJ 08540.  The best way to reach D&R Greenway staff is by sending an e-mail to info@drgreenway.org or by calling D&R Greenway at 609-578-7470.

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Kayaking on the Delaware Tributaries!

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