GREAT NEWS for my group the Serra Cross Conservancy, which owns the Father Serra Cross and one acre of land surrounding it in Ventura's Grant Park. We've scored a bit of a coup.
In a time when fundraising for all non-profits is rather slow, we've found an incredible opportunity to improve the area from an international society of stonemasons who will hold their annual workshop and symposium in Ventura.
Blessed with the best view in Ventura, our little piece of the park is home to a replica of the cross Father Junipero Serra himself erected in 1782 as a guidepost for travelers looking for the San Buenaventura Mission. Generations of Venturans have maintained this site, which was first privately owned and then donated to the City of Ventura for use as a park. We bought the property in 2003 to save the city from a costly lawsuit over separation-of-church-and-state issues.
Now we're destined to create our own little piece of history with a wonderful project the Stone Foundation, aka the Rocknockers, is leaving behind. From Jan. 8-18, 2010 a Dry Stone Walling Workshop will be held at the site. Led by Jyunji and Suminori Awata, 14th- and 15th-generation stonemasons who specialize in the restoration of medieval Japanese castle walls throughout Japan, the group will build a pair of stone ramparts flanking the stairway descending to the Cross. Joining them will be other stonemasons and students from all over the globe -- Canada, Scotland, France and Spain.
While this portion of Grant Park will be closed to cars during the 10 days the stonemasons are working, the public will be invited to park a bit further away and walk in to observe the proceedings.
Dry stone walling is a technique practiced over thousands of years but which has become somewhat of a dying art, said Tomas Lipps, of Santa Fe, N.M., who is organizing the event. "It is costly because it requires skilled craftsmen," Lipps said. He estimated that the project he and his group propose for the site would cost our group more than $250,000 were we to pay for the stone and labor ourselves.
The 200 tons of sandstone for the project is being donated by Larry Mosler, who owns a quarry in Ojai. "It's a very generous gift," Lipps said.WHY VENTURA and why Grant Park? Every year the group picks a different locale for their annual gathering. Lipps explained that while working on a public art project in Pasadena in 2003, he lived in Ventura for several months while fabricating the stone elements for the project at Art City Studios with local sculptor Paul Lindhard, who is also involved in organizing the workshop. Lipps was looking for a temperate place to hold a winter workshop and Ventura immediately came to mind.
Lindhard helped pick the Serra Cross site. "You have one of the most magnificent properties in Ventura and any and all work that is put there should be for generations to come," he told our group at a recent meeting.
The walling workshop will precede the main event, International Stonework Symposium 2010, which will be held Jan. 19-23. Another event, this one an Architectural Stone Carving Workshop will take place Jan. 12-18 at Art City Studios. It will be conducted by Colleen Wilson, a master stone carver/sculptor from Canada.
The Stone Foundation will also stage what they call the "Lithic Olympic Games," contests of skill, strength and judgment involving stone-related activities. These will be held at various places around town and the community will be able to watch the stone artisans compete.
Most of the walling workshop students will be young stonemasons, both male and female. Traveling to Ventura and staying here for the duration of the workshop will be financially challenging for them. Several plan to camp near the workshop site, others would benefit from guest housing. Offers of housing from the community will be appreciated as well as donations for food and drink for the workers and incidental materials.
For more information on the group's activities go to http://www.stonefoundation.org/.
For more on the Serra Cross Conservancy, go to http://www.serracrosspark.org/.
A FINAL NOTE: I am putting the blog on hiatus after this entry. Recent outside work commitments have made it too difficult for me to monitor and update it on a regular basis. Thanks for reading. It's been fun.