President Abela launches Malta’s first sculpture garden

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President Abela launches Malta's first sculpture gardenMalta’s first permanent Sculpture Garden will be created as 11 contemporary artists will install their works of art at Verdala Palace. The garden will also include installations by up and coming young artists and hopefully temporary exhibits by international artists.

The Sculpture Garden will permanently exhibit works by Prof. Richard England, Gabriel Caruana, John Grima, Paul Haber, George Muscat, Angelo Agius, Mario Galea, Norbert Francis Attard, Joe Xuereb and Dolores Lungaro Mifsud.

Having heard about this initiative, the heirs of the late Neville Ferry approached the President to donate a work of art from their personal collection for permanent exhibition.

MCAST art students will also be among the young artists who will contribute to the Sculpture Garden with a temporary exhibition of their works on a rotational basis for a period of three months. An area has also been earmarked for children to serve as an inspirational area. This will consist of exhibits that will be whitewashed on which children will be free to express their creativity by painting or drawing on them. Every so often, the exhibits will be whitewashed to create a fresh canvas for visiting children.

The 11 artists have already presented scale models of their works for approval by the Sculpture Garden Committee. The full scale sculptures will be completed by the end of the year and installed in the Verdala Palace gardens. The works will be placed in areas specifically identified by MEPA since the area is a Natura 2000 site.

The Sculpture Garden project was proposed by the President of Malta, Dr George Abela, to MCAST Art and Design Director, Stephen Vella, who assigned a group of MCAST students. The students, who were reading for a degree in 3D Design and Interior, prepared a scale model of the land surrounding Verdala Palace and proposed a holistic project.

“MCAST students came up with a very interesting project with various ideas that could have been included in the Sculpture Garden. After presenting their assignment, one of the students urged me to turn their project into reality. We immediately started working on this initiative since Malta’s sculpture artists lack a suitable location to exhibit their work permanently.

“Moreover this will be another opportunity through which State Palaces are opened for public appreciation while also using the grounds for cultural and educational activities,” President George Abela said during the launch. “So far 11 artists have accepted to submit their contemporary sculptures for permanent exhibition. It is, however, a great pleasure to accept an installation donated by the heirs of the late Neville Ferry.

“A Committee has been formed and will be evaluating proposals received from other local artists who wish to exhibit their work. Moreover, we will also be inviting international artists to participate in this project,” the President continued.

The committee formed to manage the Sculpture Garden will be led by Chairman Joe Church and the members are Richard Dimech, Marchese Nicholas de Piro, Anthony Pace, George Glanville, Sandro Debono, Davinia Galea, E.V. Borg and Stephen Vella. Future artists will be invited to submit their proposal of works of art and those that will satisfy the criteria established by the committee, will be reimbursed the expenses for their production.

The Government, MEPA and Bank of Valletta are supporting the Sculpture Garden project.

When the project was proposed to MEPA, the authority immediately believed in the innovative idea and will be supporting the Sculpture Garden by setting up panels providing visitors with information regarding the ecological aspect specifically found in these gardens.

MCAST Art and Design Director, Stephen Vella, explained that the project was essentially an assignment presented by students reading for a BA Hons degree in 3D Design and Interiors. “The students worked on the project for 16 weeks. They had no restrictions on what they could propose and the final project was very challenging and innovative.

As is the practice, assignments are presented live in a corporate environment to enable students to get practical experience. In this case, the presentation was made to the President of Malta and the fact that the project will be executed is value added,” added Mr Vella.

The Chairman of BOV, John Cassar White, said that “BOV is pleased to finance the launch of an innovative project which will see the grounds of Verdala Palace showcasing contemporary sculptures and installations by upcoming and established Maltese artists, as well as temporary exhibits by international artists. The Sculpture Garden is also set to increase public access to grounds that are seldom open to the public and will include an inspirational area for children.

“Two years ago, BOV financed the restoration of the Palace’s historical ceilings and this project will continue to add to the artistic value of Verdala Palace, providing an unlikely but ideal backdrop for contemporary works of art. Drawing contemporary art to Verdala palace will add another dimension to this grand historical site.”

MEPA Chairman, Architect Vincent Cassar, said that the authority is supporting the Verdala Palace Sculpture Garden financially and through promotion as it is a worthwhile project.

Mr Cassar said, “The Verdala Palace and its extensive lands are an integral part of the Natura 2000 site at Buskett and Girgenti. The site has been designated and protected because of the large valley that supports a huge of natural habitats and important species. This is the only site in Malta that has a large amount of aleppo pine trees, many important plant species, insects and spiders and several other endangered species. The woods are also a point of international reference during the migration of birds of prey.”

“This innovative and creative project launched by the President of Malta will positively contribute towards the protection and increase the value of natural and cultural heritage in the area. The very purpose of Natura 2000 is to create a harmonious co-existence between humanity and nature with the creation of a conservation partnership,” concluded Mr Cassar.

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