Upper Arlington News

Private donors pay to install seven Tibor works in UA park

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Private donations will fund the installation of seven marble and bronze sculptures by Alfred Tibor in an Upper Arlington park, while officials seek opportunities to display seven more sculptures outside the city.

Tibor, a Jewish man who endured Nazi oppression and survived more than five years in a Siberian prison camp in World War II following detention in his native Hungary, received the gift of freedom when he ventured to America in January 1956 and set eyes on the Statue of Liberty.

His lifelong dream to become a sculptor had been scuttled by Hungarian laws restricting Jews from education beyond middle school, but, according to Tibor, was realized shortly after Jerome Schottenstein invited him to move to Columbus from Miami and take a local job as an advertising illustrator around 1973.

Now a Bexley resident and renowned sculptor who will celebrate his 94th birthday Feb. 10, Tibor said he wants to provide the gift of art to others while fostering the dream of a world devoid of hate.

He also hopes to commemorate the brother who was killed in a prison camp by donating sculptures to the city of Upper Arlington.

Thanks to three private donors who collectively have given $25,000, the Alfred Tibor Sculpture Garden can be established at Parkway Park in Upper Arlington.

Concrete foundations for seven of the 14 pieces donated by Tibor, who was born Alfred Goldstein but took his late brother Tibor Goldstein's name after being released from prison in 1947, are expected to be poured later this year.

"My donations were to make a sculpting garden to have a commemoration of the Tibor name," Tibor said from his home last week. "This is my commemoration to (my brother's) name, and I wanted to donate to the public because I want people to enjoy it and remind people that hatred doesn't work.

"That's my motto."

Tibor was connected with Upper Arlington Cultural Arts Manager Lynette Santoro-Au by Robert Argo, who has exhibited Tibor's bronzes at Argo & Lehne Jewelers in Upper Arlington

Santoro-Au was quick to take up the artist's offer when he proposed donating 14 pieces, but not because they are valued at an estimated $450,000.

Rather, she said, they would enrich the community by merging Tibor's art and message with the city's Arts in Community Spaces program.

"A great community deserves great art," Santoro-Au said. "We start any project guided by the principles set forth by the community in our city's master plan and the (Upper Arlington) Parks & Recreation strategic plan that charge us to 'enhance the cultural and art-based components of park facilities and programs.'

"Beyond this, we accept the responsibility of bringing art and landscape together through our Arts in Community Spaces program," she said. "We strive to enrich the quality of life of the community through bringing art out of the gallery and to people."

Originally, Upper Arlington parks and arts officials sought to install nine Tibor sculptures at Parkway Park, but the plan was curtailed to seven following public input.

"It became clear seven would be better and we even moved some of the pieces on the site in deference to requests by immediate park neighbors," Santoro-Au said.

Upper Arlington officials now are seeking public homes for the remaining seven sculptures, and have had initial discussions with city leaders in Dublin -- a community that has maintained a public art collection since 1988 -- about a potential partnership.

"We're open to the possibility," said Sara Ott, senior project manager for the city of Dublin. "There have been some elementary conversations of what would be necessary to make this happen.

"I think there are still things to work out, but I think, in principle, both agencies think it's a good idea."

Prior to being forced into slave labor for a Hungarian Army labor battalion, Tibor qualified for the 1936 Hungarian Olympic gymnastics team, but was not permitted to compete when it was discovered he was Jewish.

He also said he lost 83 relatives during the Holocaust and was among just two of the 275 prisoners who survived encampment with the labor battalion.

Those experiences are among the reasons David Guion, executive director of the nonprofit Dublin Arts Council, said he's rooting for the seven remaining Tibor sculptures to find public homes, be it in Dublin or elsewhere.

"Mr. Tibor has an amazing message," Guion said. "We would be thrilled if something like this happened in Dublin. Mr. Tibor's art is really incredible and he has a phenomenal message to say to the world.

"I fully support his work and message. It would be fantastic to see his art not only in Dublin or Upper Arlington, but throughout central Ohio."

Tibor said he looks forward to the public installation of his sculptures and hopes they'll help guide future generations away from past tragedies.

"All of them are dealing with humanity and all of them are giving advice to the future generations that hatred doesn't work," he said of his work. "It's turning the world in the right direction."

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