New leader wants to connect with community at 21-year-old park and museum

Sean FitzGibbons, who starts today as executive director of the Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum, plans to continue welcoming the community to visit both art and nature at the 300-plus-acre park.

FitzGibbons believes he has a strong understanding of a key demographic the park wants to welcome. After all, the 35-year-old sculptor and his wife, Amber, have two young children, Maggie, 6, and Elliott, 3.

“I know how tough it is on Saturday mornings where you need to go out with the kids, but you don’t just want to go out to the same park every day,” he said. “So having an engaging and thoughtful program of workshops, art education and environmentally friendly and focused programming is something I look forward to.”

When interviewed last week, the man who had been the director of the Meadows Museum of Art at Centenary College of Louisiana was planning a 12-hour drive from Shreveport, La., to Hamilton.

When FitzGibbons arrived here, it would be the first time he saw the park that opened to the public May 7, 1998, without a cover of snow.

“I fell in love with it,” he said.

Created by founder Harry T. Wilks, who first bought 40 acres off Hamilton-Cleves Road in 1987 to build a home, the park’s mission is “Bringing People to Art in Nature.”

Wilks told the Journal-News in 2012 that he continued to amass surrounding properties because “I wanted to save the land.”

He later started buying sculptures to put on the land’s rolling hills. There now are more than 60 large sculptures, and the park, which is open 365 days a year as weather permits, attracts 30,000 visitors per year. Wilks died March 11, 2014.

“Sculpture has been in my blood since I was very little,” FitzGibbons said. “My dad (Bill FitzGibbons) is a sculptor, and I grew up in a sculptor’s shop, in galleries, behind the scenes and performance art pieces, so I felt at home.”

Art is for the people, he says.

“I have the opinion that art should be geared toward the public and it’s not something that is up on its ivory tower, so as the director, one thing I’m going to make sure of is to continue the drive for community outreach at Pyramid Hill,” he said.

“Going through their website and in the interview process, I was really moved by how much they not just welcome the local community — Greater Cincinnati, Hamilton — but they strive to do things like the (Pyramid Hill) Art Fair and engage local artists, local families.”

Nanci Lanni, chairwoman of the Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park Board, said she and colleagues were impressed with his experience and skill “and are excited to work together under Sean’s leadership to make Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park the best it can be.”

“We look forward to the next chapter of Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park,” Lanni added.

FitzGibbons is a graduate of the University of Texas in Austin and Washington University in St. Louis, where he earned his Master’s of Fine Arts degree. He studied sculpture and visual arts, and has had more than 20 personal exhibitions across the country in the past decade.

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