Elodie Reed, St. Albans Messenger
‘Essentially, you’re simulating every experience you’ve had.’
ENOSBURG FALLS — On land he bought, in a barn he built, with machines and tools he’s created and repaired, and through his experiential memories and inspirations, David Stromeyer, 67, makes his massive steel art.
The Enosburg Falls resident became a Vermonter in Dec. 1970, when he found his 200 acres of land by topographical map and bought the Boston Post Road property. He then began to build his house, his workshop, his art, and he hasn’t stopped since.
More than 40 years and 400 sculptures later, Stromeyer and his wife, Sarah, have opened Cold Hollow Sculpture Park. The free outdoor art museum, which debuted in late June, showcases 50 or so of Stromeyer’s unique steel pieces that twist and bend, stand and sit, scream color and mutely blend in among the meadows, trees and hills of the couple’s property.
The park will be open to the public through early October and is planned to re-open each summer.
If visitors go to the Cold Hollow Sculpture Park more than once in the next few months, they shouldn’t be alarmed if sculptures have been rearranged, moved, or taken out. Stromeyer is a constant creator, working on new pieces and incorporating them into the natural landscape. One new sculpture has already been installed since the park’s opening last month.
“Things are happening,” Stromeyer said in an interview Monday.
In speaking about his imaginative steel sculptures, Stromeyer doesn’t pinpoint any one source of inspiration. It’s not one or two or 10 things – rather, it’s everything.
“Essentially, you’re simulating every experience you’ve had,” he said.
Stromeyer the man seems to be formed in the same way. Before he built his own house, workshop and artwork, he began making things, like huts and model airplanes, as a kid.
“I was always building things,” Stromeyer said. “I was always working with my hands.”
Stromeyer’s appetite for risk – working with metal plates weighing thousands of pounds and repairing your own cranes is no easy feat – seems to have also been bred at an early age. Stromeyer competed as a ski racer in both high school, and at Dartmouth College, and in his later years, he was also a racecar driver for over a decade.
“Every track I raced at had someone killed there,” Stromeyer said.
The challenge of being in hazardous situations and succeeding is what Stromeyer said keeps him interested.
“I accept those dangers but I try to keep them in a manageable bound,” he said. Stromeyer doesn’t work late at night on his sculptures to avoid making mistakes while tired, and he also uses the highest quality equipment and help.
“You don’t cut corners,” he said.
Though he almost always works with steel, Stromeyer’s interest range is wide – he started out as a math major at Dartmouth College and then switched to art, he enjoys playing the violin as well as with large machines, and he derives pleasure from both driving fast cars and watching the happenings of nature outside his kitchen window.
Stromeyer and his wife also go southward to Austin, Texas during the winter and return to one of their very northern Vermont home every summer.
Somehow, everything seems to come together in Stromeyer’s creative problem solving process. At the beginning of constructing a new sculpture, Stromeyer said he starts with concepts, not design. He often makes models at an inch-to-foot scale, so he can play with his ideas more easily.
“I’m not thinking about how I’m going to build at all,” he said.
Stromeyer then sets to the task of making the real-life sculpture. On Monday, he was in the middle of figuring out his latest challenge: how to bend and shape 12-foot steel rods for his newest sculpture.
“It’s a process,” he said.
After completing his art pieces, Stromeyer names them – labels like “The Gathering” and “Standing Wave,” “Patchy Fog” and “Floating Mortgage.”
“The titles never drive the work,” he said. “They come after.”
Stromeyer’s willingness to let his new ideas take form and his patient determination to see them come to fruition can take months and even years. His longest project took four years to complete.
“That’s long range,” he said.
Regardless of past projects’ timelines, Stromeyer tackles each new task with a fresh outlook. He doesn’t fear any challenges – rather, he welcomes them.
“I set myself problems,” Stromeyer said. “Living up here you get to be – one needs to be to do this work – self-reliant.” Like the Vermont land and seasons he looks out on and draws many of his ideas from, Stromeyer appears to need continual change.
The Cold Hollow Sculpture Park has been Stromeyer’s overarching long-term project pretty much ever since he bought his land nearly 45 years ago, which at the time, only had a horse barn and a burned down home.
“It’s taken a lot of time to put together,” he said. Stromeyer and his wife are currently fronting the costs of the park, though it’s a boost when Stromeyer occasionally sells a piece, receiving between $10,000 and $120,000 in return.
“It’s a little like selling snow tires in the Bahamas,” he joked.
Stromeyer continues to think about what will happen down the road – the land will perhaps be given as a foundation and retreat for artists, writers and musicians.
“We have hopes that it can eventually serve a more cross-purpose,” he said.
For now, though, Stromeyer said he isn’t quite ready to retire. Cold Hollow Sculpture Park’s foreseeable future is as a seasonal gallery for Stromeyer’s ever-evolving work and an ode to the continually shifting landscape. Just last week, for example, the park’s grass was hayed, and new paths are always being mowed for the sculptures.
“I think one of the unique things [about] this place is that work is constantly being created and moved,” said Stromeyer. “I like to keep it fresh.”
If you plan to visit …
Cold Hollow Sculpture Park is located at 4280 Boston Post Rd. It opened on June 25, and will be closing for the season on Oct. 11. People are free to visit Wednesday through Saturday, from noon to 6 p.m., and can stop at the welcome center for a self-guided tour booklet. There are also restrooms, water, and on rainy days, umbrellas, available. Though the park, situated on about 33 of the property’s 200 acres, is intended to be an outdoor museum experience, many of the sculptures are also for sale – they sell for between $10,000 and $120,000.
Call (512) 333-2119 or email email@example.com with any further questions.