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"Dragonfly" by Gene Sheehan of Salisbury, Mass., has been placed near the town library. (DAN SEUFERT Union Leader Correspondent)

Meredith Sculpture Walk a big summer draw

MEREDITH — Visitors to the busy downtown area this summer have been seeing oddly shaped metal, rock, wood and clay objects in the oddest of places.

Near the library, there's a giant dragonfly. At the foot of Meredith Bay, there are giant metal herons standing in the shallow water. Nearby, a giant stone hand lays flat on the grass. And in several places, there are steel and stone objects that look like they could be from Stonehenge.Upon closer examination, small signs by the objects tell the story. These are works of art, created by some of New England's most imaginative sculptors.

It may seem like a ploy to draw more people to downtown Meredith, but it's not. As area residents know, there are already enough, perhaps too many people coming to town in the summer months, so much so that the town and the state are working hard to iron out traffic problems that make the downtown area resemble a Massachusetts highway on weekends.No, the Greater Meredith Program realizes that the town's role in the area's tourism has changed in the past two decades, and the sculptures, part of the new Meredith Sculpture Walk, are there as a response.
&#';We used to be thought of as the latchkey to the White Mountains, a place you would stop on your way there,&#'; said the program's Bev Lapham. &#';But Meredith is a destination location now, and the sculpture walk gives people something really interesting to do as they browse the downtown shops.&#';
The idea came to program officials after the success of two art works placed in a downtown park a few years ago. There are a few other towns in New England that have created sculpture walks, and it seemed like a good idea for Meredith.
Program officials put out a 'Call to Artists' on April 15. They received 33 applications from artists, and a jury chose 24 art works for the town. All are on loan from the artists. Next year, the program will &#';keep the art fresh,&#'; said Lapham, by choosing new pieces.
The sculpture walk has been a big hit.

&#';The activity has been unbelievable,&#'; said Katheryn Rolfe of Oglethorpe Fine Arts and Crafts on Route 3. &#';This is the best thing we've done to the downtown in a long time, and people have really been reacting to it.&#';&#';The response has been better than we could have imagined,&#'; Lapham said. &#';It's better than putting a museum in town because the art works are outside, and kids have especially been loving the art works.&#';
The positive response to the art works have program officials already thinking about next year's entries. The artists have been very pleased with the number of visitors their works have drawn, and are eager to participate next summer, too, Lapham said.
&#';A number of towns in the area and the state have contacted us, asking us how we did this,&#'; Lapham said. &#';We keep getting enthusiastic emails and posts on our Facebook page. It's definitely part of our downtown now.&#';

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