Asheville’s first major public outdoor sculpture exhibition will move out of the city, its organizers recently announced. The third annual RiverSculpture will be held in Woodfin at Reynolds Mountain, north of the city limits, instead of on the river in West Asheville.
West Asheville’s French Broad River Park had been home to RiverSculpture’s outdoor installations and weekend performances for the past two years. But this year, RiverSculpture’s organizers and city officials couldn’t work out details of the arrangement.
“This should have been a piece of cake [to work out],” says Arlene Winkler, who with her husband, artist Robert Winkler, founded and organized the event. “Bureaucracy and Byzantine internal politicking got in the way.”
A city of Asheville staffer who worked with the Winklers on the event says the couple wasn’t following established procedures for festivals and events held on city property. The two sides couldn’t agree on who would be responsible for the event’s liability insurance, among other issues.
If the city had more involvement in planning and organizing RiverSculpture, the event could’ve been covered under the city’s insurance policy, said Cultural Arts Superintendent Diane Ruggiero. But because RiverSculpture was put together without city input, the city couldn’t take on the risk if sculptures were damaged, for example, or if someone was hurt during their installation.
“It was too great of a risk for the city to be put in,” Ruggiero says.
Still, the city offered significant support for the program, she says, pledging up to $20,000 for the event. “Asheville loves this exhibit,” she notes.
But the Winklers said the type of insurance policy required by the city could’ve cost up to $40,000. Just a few weeks ago, amid the impasse, a friend of the Winklers pitched the exhibit to Woodfin and Reynolds Mountain.
Town officials and Reynolds Mountain developers came courting, the Winklers report. “Woodfin wanted it because it puts them on the map culturally,” Robert says.
The Reynolds Mountain developers have partnered with Woodfin to build a downtown area from scratch, near but separate from the luxury homes being developed on Reynolds Mountain.
RiverSculpture opens Sept. 27, and the Winklers say they’re excited about the new location and the level of support they’re receiving.
Meanwhile, Robert says the couple has been receiving angry e-mails from West Asheville residents accusing them of selling out. But the Winklers don’t mind, he says. The emotional reactions show that RiverSculpture was so successful in its two years at River Park that people came to expect it.
“They’re saying, ‘How can we move it? How dare we move it?’” he says.
For more information and a schedule of related events, visit www.riversculpture.com.