Newark Life Magazine — Fall-Winter 07
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Newarks Sculptures By Charles Parks
Carla Lucas

Around the world there are over 500 works of art created by Delaware sculpture Charles Parks in both private collections and public places. Renowned for his realistic and natural portrayal of people and animals, Parks has spent the past 55 years sharing his insights through his sculpture.<br /> <br /> Parks’ work can be found from Sweden, to California, Michigan, and Illinois. Locally, there are quite a few Charles Parks sculptures located in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and Wilmington, New Castle, and Newark, Delaware. The stories of how three of Charles Parks’ sculptures came to the Newark area follow.“One can be morally committed to creating symbols of compassion, hope, honor and truth – not to change the world but that the world can at least have symbols to think with which make a future possible.” <br /> The Student At Newark Free Library<br /> <br /> On a brick pedestal, near the entrance to the Newark Free Library, stands an eight-foot bronze sculpture, titled The Student. This barefoot young man seems to be reflecting on the book resting by his knee. It sets the mood for visitors entering the library.<br /> <br /> This bronze casting is the third The Student sculpture at Newark Free Library. The original eight-foot welded-steel sculpture, which was placed near the original entrance to the Library, was dedicated on July 27, 1975. Twenty years later, the sculpture had rusted beyond repair and had to be removed.<br /> <br /> Parks donated a smaller version of The Student to the library in 1997. This smaller casting remains in the library near the reference desk.<br /> <br /> According to the book, History of the Newark Library, by Jane Tripp, “the Friends of Newark Free Library and other interested citizens felt that there was enough support in the community to pay for replacing the original statue.” Art Amick chaired the Save the Student Committee, and within a year, $79,000 was raised to commission a new bronze casting. Parks used the original statue as the casting model. On February 14, 1999, this new sculpture was dedicated.<br /> <br /> Of interest, Newark native Floyd Kemske, Park’s nephew, was the model for this piece when he was a student at the University of Delaware.Grow Old Along with Me! At the Newark Senior Center Greeting visitors to the Newark Senior Center is Parks’ sculpture titled, Grow Old Along with Me!, which celebrates the later stages of life with three distinctly different figures – an elderly African American, an elderly balding gentleman, and an elderly European woman—dancing together. Smiling, holding hands and ‘kicking their heels,’ the figures portray a positive attitude toward life, and as the plaque that accompanies the sculpture states, “The best is yet to be!” Of the sculpture, Parks said he modeled the gentleman after himself, with the exception of the hairline, which he made more balding in the sculpture. He also said his love of dance is portrayed in this work. Parks’ one hope about this piece is that someday he would love to be able to cast a life-size statue.<br /> <br /> Grow Old Along with Me! Was commissioned and donated to the Newark Senior Center by Warren Perry. It was dedicated on May 6, 1996. An avid supporter of the arts, Perry chose to bring this work to the Senior Center. In support of the Newark Senior Center, his donation was the cornerstone for the capital campaign to build the Perry Education Wing, the Fitness Center, and the Meals on Wheels preparation area. According to information at the Newark Center, “Mr. Perry recognized the important impact the (Senior) Center had on the lives of the older adult and wanted to ensure that its presence would be felt for a long time.”Easy Rider at Gauger-Cobbs Middle School On a pedestal, in the area of Gauger-Cobbs Middle School often referred to as “the Pit,” visible as students and visitors enter the school, is Parks’ welded steel sculpture of two young children joyfully riding a horse. It is titled, Easy Rider. The sculpture was installed and dedicated in 1973.<br /> <br /> Milton Markley was Cobbs Elementary School’s first principle when it and the Gauger Middle School opened in January 1972. At that time, Cobbs Elementary School was in the downstairs part of the building and Gauger Middle School was on the second story. Now the entire building is a middle school, and called Gauger-Cobbs Middle School.<br /> <br /> “The schools were built in an era when we thought school buildings ought to have more than books and that some artful presentation was important,” Markley said. ”Because of the building budgets for both schools, we were able to pull funds to commission a work of art. George Kirk was the superintendent at the time, and he masterminded the project.” “I remember going out to Charles Parks’ studio as it was being made,” said Elly Schmalz, who has taught in the school district for 38 years and was among the teachers that came to Gauger Middle School when it opened. “It was nice to see it being built.” According to Markley, students also went to visit Parks at his studio and somewhere there was a video of an interview the students conducted with Parks.<br /> <br /> “It was a great experience,” remembers Markley. “The sculpture was a centerpiece. The kids would look up and check it out. You’d always hear people in the building say, ‘meet you at the horse.’” A conversation with Charles Parks Sitting in his studio on August 31, 2007, surrounded by models of the many of the sculptures Charles Parks has created over the years, and those he continues to create, he shares a few remembrances of his life and how it affected his art.<br /> <br /> Born in 1922, in Virginia, Parks’ said, “from the time I was 14 to 16, we lived everywhere, covered the whole country.”The family eventually settled in Wilmington, Delaware, and he considers himself to be a Delawarean.<br /> <br /> During World War II, Parks was trained as a fighter pilot and stationed in Europe. He vividly remembers the day he could not join his squadron on a mission due to a collapsed lung.<br /> <br /> “The whole squadron was shot down,” said Parks. “I took this as a sign that I was meant to do other things.” As a young boy, Charles Parks had a desire to create sculpture.<br /> <br /> “I met a man who thought I had talent and he pushed me,” said Parks on why he pursued his art. “I worked in my grandfather’s machine shop (Cropper’s, in Wilmington) as a teenager. This gave me a big head start on the ability to make the tools I’d use for sculpture. I made all the tools I ever needed myself.” Parks’ mentor was Marcus Renzutti.<br /> <br /> Parks attended the University of Delaware after World War<br /> <br /> II. From there he went on to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (1948), for four years, which he attended in the evenings and on weekends after working full-time at the machine shop.<br /> <br /> He built his first home and studio in Hockessin, Delaware.<br /> <br /> There, he and his wife, Inge (Ruehl), raised his sons Eric, Christopher, Charles Jr., and his daughter Ingloria.<br /> <br /> Charles Parks, Sculptor It wasn’t until the 1960s, when Parks was in his forties, that he started gaining national attention and was able to make a living from commissions for his sculptures.<br /> <br /> One of the highlights of this time was 1965, when Parks and his family spent a year in Greece. He went to study the classical roots of his art. “I had respect for the Greeks of that time,” he said of the experience. “We experienced the culture of Greece and its art history.<br /> <br /> It was important what they (the sculptors of the period) were doing. I hoped some of it would rub off on me if I could get close enough.” Of his art, Parks said, “My work is figurative, not cast in stone. I humanize the people that I have created.”