Goessel art teacher plots small-town ‘sculpture tour’

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Leave it to Brian Stucky to organize a sculpture tour in Goessel.

He’s the same Brian Stucky who fueled research about the the town’s once mysterious namesake, Captain Kurt Von Goessel, turned the school’s new auditorium into a theater to show black-and-white classic movies and helped create a lively art gallery in its hallways.

“I’m kind of the new guy in town who sees things not everybody else who’s lived here all their lives always sees,” said Stucky. “I ask questions about it, and when nobody knows the answer, I dig it up.”

The “new guy,” who has been teaching art and coaching at Goessel High School for nearly a quarter century now, sees enough interesting sculpture and design work in this small community in southwest Marion County that he wants to show it to anyone else who might be interested.

The start of the tour is planned for 2 p.m., Sunday, and it begins at Goessel High School. Admission is by donation.

“I’ve been thinking about it for years because, as an art teacher, I’ve always noticed little things around the community that are art related,” Stucky said. “We always look at indoor art, but we don’t always look at outdoor art. That’s what a lot of this is.”

Stucky’s second nature is story-telling, so he’ll be the tour leader as well as its organizer.

“I’ve never done anything like this, but I thought, hey, I like to give tours,” he said.

The tour begins at GHS in part because that’s one of the stops, too. Stucky said he finds it interesting that over the entrance of the old portion of the high school built during the Depression era is an Art Deco relief which would have been cutting edge for that time period.

About the same time, he said, the community was building a new facility for Bethesda Home and Hospital-incorporating neo-classical architectural style with Greek and Roman touches-and completing a major renovation of the original Alexanderwohl Church building just north of town.

“I am really amazed at the community commitment of people at that time,” he said. “You’d think in the middle of the Depression you’re not building anything.

“Matter of fact, during the Depression, Goessel High School had no yearbooks-from 1929 until 1940. They didn’t have enough money to do yearbooks, but they had enough to build a high school.”

Also included on the sculpture tour are Alexanderwohl church cemetery grave stones believed to have been created by Christoph Paulus, a Bethel College faculty member a century ago who later exhibited seven sculptures at the 1907 World’s Fair in St. Louis.

“It’s a sad story,” Stucky said. “The (Bethel) board acknowledged he had great credentials, but kids didn’t take his classes very much. They wanted somebody to teach drawing and painting, so they let him go and hired somebody to teach drawing and painting.

“He hung around Newton until around 1912, I believe, and had a gravestone business,” he added. “Therefore, we believe there are some gravestones in the Alexanderwohl cemetery he has done.

“The interesting thing is, the most decorated grave stones we’ve got are from 1903 to 1912, the years he was around here,” Stucky said. “The question is, would he have made cement grave stones that were cast instead of carved?”

The work of a more contemporary artist, Arlie J. Regier’s “Swords Into Plowshares” metal sculpture on the grounds of the Mennonite Heritage Museum, is another stop on the tour.

“(Regier) spent a number of years teaching metal shop classes-teaching kids how to weld,” Stucky said. “But then he retired and he’s now a full-time sculptor. He’s 72, but he’s making fabulous, highly polished stainless steel sculptures that will knock your eyes out. He has them in galleries in Santa Fe, Aspen and other place like that where people from the coast come to buy things.”

Stucky said Regier works now sell for between $600 and $800 on the average, but he was commissioned to create one to memorialize an Olathe business man that has been valued at $40,000.

The sculpture tour will also include a variety of smaller treasures, including some historical plaques and the Butterfly Garden bronze statues at Bethesda Home.

In addition to heightening the awareness of area folks to Goessel’s artistic past, Stucky said the tour has another purpose, too.

“All donations will go toward the school art department,” he said with a smile. “I am desperately in need of a good SLR digital camera. Technology doesn’t slow down for anybody.”

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