How Did Benson Sculpture Garden in Loveland Get Its Name?
The annual "Sculpture In the Park" show at Benson Sculpture Garden in Loveland, Colorado, draws tens of thousands of visitors every year. How did it all begin?
There are nearly 175 sculptures that grace Benson Sculpture Garden in Loveland, Colorado. If you were to try and estimate how many hours or artistry have been put into those works, it would probably reach into the millions.
When I was growing up in Loveland, in the '70's, the area that is now one of the biggest reasons people visit Loveland, was just a wetland area. The pond, high grasses, birds, and a bridge that took you over the pond. There really wasn't much to it, especially for a kid.
By the mid-'80's, things had begun to change at the pond. That's when the annual sculpture show started happening. Of course, Loveland had had a long history of being a place where sculptors could get their works bronzed, now the town had become a place where those works could be displayed and sold, as well.
In 1984 five of Loveland's sculptors (legends, today) George Lundeen, Dan Ostermiller, George Walbye, Fritz White, and Hollis Wiliford, approached the City of Loveland about starting up an outdoor exhibition and sale at Benson Park.
1984 was the year of the first "Sculpture in the Park" event; 2,000 people showed up to see the works of 50 artists. $50,000 worth of sculpture were sold. That must have felt great to those sculptors who came up with the great idea. Did you know that every year, the Loveland High Plains Arts Council uses proceeds from the show to purchase more sculpture for the park as well as park improvements and upkeep?
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Nearly 40 years later, "Sculpture in the Park" has seen over 1,000 artists' works on display and generates over $1 million in sales, each year. It's known nationally and internationally as one of the best art sales. It makes Loveland very proud. After all these years, though, I don't think it's very clear on where the "Benson" name comes from.
HOW DID BENSON SCULPTURE GARDEN GET ITS NAME?
The land that the garden sits on now dates back to 1877 when it was a homestead area. It was in 1907 that Robert Benson bought the land from his grandfather and began farming the land, through about 1945. It was 16 years later, in 1961, that the family donated some the Benson land to the city to create wetlands and a bird refuge.
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Robert Benson was also a key figure in Loveland and Northern Colorado's history as he was a part of the initial Colorado Big Thompson Project. Today, that project delivers water to over one million people in the area and across the state.
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