Creative holiday collaboration benefits Whidbey nonprofits
— Created November 25, 2020 by Kathy Reed
By Alec Brown
Whidbey Community Foundation has once again joined with Whidbey sculptor Georgia Gerber and her husband, Randy Hudson, to raise money through art.
WCF announced its fourth annual partnership at the beginning of the month. This year’s sculpture, entitled “Three French Hens,” joins sculptures from the previous three years and all are available for purchase. (Check out Dashing Turtle (2019), Sheepish Rabbit (2018) and Settling Owl (2017).) Proceeds from the sale will be donated to WCF, which then disperses the funds to Whidbey nonprofits. Those interested can go online at whidbeyfoundation.org to order their sculptures. Orders can be picked up at the Rob Schouten Gallery on the corner of Anthes Ave. and 1st Street in Langley.
Gerber and Hudson have traveled a long road to becoming the renowned sculpting duo they are now.
“I grew up in Pennsylvania, did my undergraduate work there, went out to University of Washington for my graduate work—where I met Randy,” said Gerber. “We’ve been doing this together for over 35 years.”
Gerber’s unique inspiration comes from her childhood growing up on a farm, where she was fascinated with the shapes of animals.
“I always loved it, even in high school. I sculpted clay on my parent’s ping pong table…I grew up on a farm so I knew about animals and studied them and studied their behavior to capture a move, how they might express themselves,” said Gerber. “It’s always been a part of how I grew up.”
The sculptures on sale are all based on animals, but you’ll notice how smooth and shapely they are. Georgia’s work, as she explains it, is less about the detail and more about the form.
“I’ve done a lot of figurative work, but I love the shape, the smooth lines that can happen,” Gerber continued. “I try and push the form sometimes more than just the realistic approach to an animal form, that has some more abstractness to it without anatomical details and feathers and such. I just love the three-dimensional shape.”
“If you were to remove the parts that identify it as an animal,” Hudson added, “it’s still the sculptural form itself that has integrity…it has this sculptural form that gives it an appeal that’s not apparent a lot of times to people who are seeing it; that is what they like about the piece. I think that defines a lot of the success of Georgia’s work—it’s both figurative and sculptural on its own and the combination of that is subtle and appealing.”
The duo’s basic workflow has evolved over time, but generally involves Gerber’s ideas and art, with Hudson helping her on the business side. They are also helped by Virginia Keck, who has assisted them for 35 years.
“I do the idea and the sculpting, and Randy may give some input, but it’s really just following my heart and eye,” Gerber continued. “Randy does pretty much everything except the foundry. Before we worked with the foundry, we split those chores up. It was a lot of years of daily hard work, and it’s been really nice to focus on the creative part for me right now. It feels freeing.”
“Basically, Georgia is the artist and I’m the technician,” Hudson said. “I help her make her artistic visions possible, but I don’t have much role at all in the art side of it. I take on the practicalities of it, and it allows Georgia to be the artist. It’s a huge burden for an artist to do it all on their own—it’s too time-consuming.
“Recently, we’ve transitioned, using a foundry in Eugene, Ore., called Reinmuth Bronze,” Hudson continued. “They do the casting. Georgia still sculpts, I do a lot of the mold-making still, and then they take the molds and do all the casting. We get it back here, we do the final finish work on most of the work still here—but we no longer do the casting here.
“A day in the life around here doesn’t look like what it used to,” Hudson said with a chuckle.
The sculpture sale has humble origins, but has evolved into something larger than they ever expected.
“In 1999,” Hudson said, “Christmas was approaching and neither of us liked Christmas shopping. We had the idea, if Georgia were to begin to make a small Christmas figure that we could have cast in pewter—which is a very efficient way of casting metal—we would make one each year and that would be our Christmas gifts for family and friends. We realized we might be able to use that to raise money for Holiday House.”
Holiday House is an organization based out of the South Whidbey Community Center, providing numerous toys and gifts for children during the holiday season.
After an article on their sculpture sale, the couple got 25 people to participate in it. The year after that, 50 people participated. And the sale didn’t stop expanding.
“It got to the point where the management of it, it didn’t make a lot of sense for us to keep up with the growth of it,” said Hudson. “We were losing money because we weren’t a nonprofit. So around that time, in 2017, we learned about the Whidbey Community Foundation forming.”
The duo joined forces with WCF, allowing them to use the organization’s website to host online orders and make the whole process easier for everyone.
“Since 2017, it’s grown each year,” Hudson stated. “This year, it’s really going well. They provided a great framework to make it easier for both the collectors and ourselves. It’s been a great partnership.”
The sale started at the beginning of the month, but they have already matched their efforts from last year—which was a record-breaking $25,000.
“One of the reason’s it’s going really well this year is that it’s such a strange year,” Hudson said. “With all the pandemic restrictions, people know Christmas is going to be different this year. I just have this feeling that people see this as a nice opportunity to bring a little joy into their homes this year. This is a way to bring a little joy for themselves and helping others.”
The duo said this sale is important for others and reminds everyone of how art can be the perfect vehicle for fundraising.
“People can purchase art and it can go way above and beyond the value of the art, so it’s always been a great way of fundraising,” Gerber said. “This pewter project is a way to give back to the community, which has supported me and Randy so much through all our efforts.”
“A good part of last year’s Christmas sculpture donations got utilized as a matching fund for the Whidbey Community Foundation COVID-19 Community Resilience Fund,” said Hudson. “It’s something they set up particularly to look at organizations being affected by the pandemic…regardless, the bulk of it will still go to the organizations that we started with—Good Cheer and Holiday House in particular—because of the holiday-related aspect of it.”
The two never lose sight of the spirit of their holiday sculpture project.
“We remind you of the spirit of this project—it is an effort to raise money for a number of important organizations who provide so much help and support to our neighbors in need. For this project to be meaningful, your contribution must be in addition to what you would have donated otherwise. We are happy to have you as a collector, but we urge you to continue your usual generous support of Whidbey charitable and service organizations. Thanks for your support of this project. As your collection grows and adds to your holiday traditions, it’s nice to know we have all helped make Christmas a lot merrier for a good many of our neighbors.”
Find more information at whidbeyfoundation.org.