The Virginian Pilot
Sunday, June 13, 2004

Art makes memories tangible at Beach center
by Michelle Mizal-Archer

Virginia Beach - It may not be as large as the Statue of Liberty or as intricate as Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker.

But the 5-foot-tall sculpture unveiled Saturday afternoon in a small commemorative garden has something they don’t: a Matchbox car, nickels and a Special Olympics gold medal.

The teardrop-shaped statue with a hollowed-out heart is made with a few hundred pounds of concrete and embedded memorabilia that belonged to those who have or still use SkillQuest Services.

The center, located in a small office park near Mount Trashmore, is a nonprofit day program for adults with mental retardation and is part of the Department of Human Services.

“I think that’s a pretty cool sculpture, don’t you?” Tammy M. Hunt, a mental-retardation assistant at the center, asked Ernest “Pie” Avery.

Avery, a 55-year old Beach resident, is one of about 150 clients that the center serves daily.

“Yeah,” Avery said. He pointed to a green Matchbox car pressed into the scultpure. Avery donated the car, along with the nickels that surround it.

Rebecca A. Jennings, Avery’s younger sister and guardian, said the sculpture symbolizes everything about her brother.

“Pie is a huge heart with a teddy bear in the middle,” Jennings, 51, said. “He’s full of love.”

On Saturday afternoon, the center’s staff, clients, their families and a few local dignitaries attended the small ceremony to unveil the statue.

Clients and staff member’s along with the sculpture’s artists, Trisha Kyner and David Friedheim of Oakland, Calif., removed the white sheets as the crowd applauded and stepped forward to take a closer look.

Friedheim and Kyner included the phrase, “It is only with the heard that one can see rightly.” The words are inscribed in cursive in the statue and are in reverse - indicative of the communication challenges faced by those who use the center, Friedheim said.

Along with the memorabilia are clay tiles that the center’s clients made. Inscribed in the concrete, at the base of the sculpture, are the words, “This garden and sculpture are a tribute to all the remarkable individuals in our program and in our community.”

It took a year to design and raise money for the project, which cost more than $10,000, said Colleen Zalewski, the center’s program supervisor. The garden, about as wide as 11 parking spaces, has a brick walkway leading to the sculpture. There are plans to plant flowers and install benches and memorial bricks.

“It’s for reflection, pondering one’s own life and the impact of the people you care about and for the people you’ve lost or still have in your life,” said Marion W. Bloomsfield, 45, and art therapist for SkillQuest.

Arthur Knauer, a retired minister, offered a prayer shortly before the sculpture was unveiled.

Knauer, an 82-year old Virginia Beach resident, had a daughter who used the center daily. Linda Ann Knauer died in a car accident last year at age 50.

“We are awed as we look upon this park and all its grandeur and beauty and the many personal item that bring back such precious moments,” Knauer said. “Memories that move our lives are not those carved in stone, but memories left in the heart’s of those who knew them best and loved them most.”

Then Knauer looked at the sculpture. “See that? Near the top?” Knauer said to a woman next to him. “My daughter made that.”

He pointed to Linda’s donation to the sculpture. The blue-colored heart, tucked into the concrete, has her name written on it in black.





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