By Alicia Stemper / Vitamin O
Tinka Jordy has been hosting Sculpture in the Garden, now known one of the finest outdoor sculpture showcases in the region, for 25 years. Tinka and her husband moved to Orange County from New Orleans almost 30 years ago, attracted by the weather, the location, and the diversity. The area has “a real vitality to it…there are artists everywhere.” Tinka enjoys being out in the county, yet “in 15 minutes I can be in Durham and go to the DPAC.”
Tinka began her career as a potter. The shift to sculptor was an organic one. ““Pots were starting to have animals coming off of them. They were becoming more and more sculpture and less pot.” Eventually, the “little wild animals sitting off the pots started selling better than the pots,” and Tinka evolved into producing more figurative work.
Meanwhile, because she had more land than she did in Louisiana, she started to garden. “I stared making things that would go in all the spots where nothing would grow.” As the gardens matured, the pieces needed to be bigger for scale.
Next-door neighbor Val Tyson is a horticulturist. Years ago, she had extra plants to sell and she asked Tinka if she wanted to sell her sculptures at the plant sale. “I invited a couple of other artists …we made our sculptures go all the way over to her field and that was the beginning.” The show was an immediate success. “There was just a need – there was no other way to sell outdoor work. Nobody has that kind of space.” The plant sale stopped after a few years, but the sculpture show continued, with Tyson and her husband Rich Erhardt continuing to donate use of their fields for the two weekends of the show.
Approximately a dozen artists participate. Bill Moore has been involved since the beginning, and Carrboro sculpture Mike Roig joined shortly thereafter. “I just think it is an amazing thing to watch those artists grow over time.” Tinka says the show, attended each year by a few thousand people across the three days, “pretty much runs itself at this point.” A grant from the Arts Commission helps defray advertising costs. Tinka functions as a “compassionate curator,” making sure each sculpture has appropriate space. Up to 150 works of art spread out among the four acre site at 1902 Borland Road outside of Hillsborough.
The show is a commercial success for the artists, although Tinka clearly measures it by more than financial metrics. “It’s just wonderful to watch the cycles of the years go by. Each spring we come together and we see our new work. It’s a wonderful community effort that I just think is priceless.”
This year’s show is Saturday, May 4 (10 am – 6 pm) and Sunday, May 5 (noon – 5 pm). It also runs Saturday, May 11. The 25th anniversary celebration will include poetry, live music, spoken word performances, and refreshments.