LOCKPORT - Wendy Gibson, Lockport's "hat lady," was a hit at the Kenan Center's holiday gift show for several years.
She died of cancer at age 62 the week before last year's show, but her memory will live on through two metal sculptures installed last week on the Kenan grounds.
One of the two, located near the Kenan orchard and herb garden, was formally unveiled Friday afternoon. The other is located in front of the main entrance to the Kenan Arena.
The colorful works in painted 5/16-inch sheet steel were designed and executed in large part by groups of children ages 8 to 12, who took part in a two-week summer art residency in July.
The sessions, dubbed the "Whimsical Large-Scale Sculpture Project," were funded through a donation of a little over $2,000 from the Gibson estate and part of a grant to the Kenan Center from Lockport's Grigg-Lewis Foundation.
"Whimsical" might have been a good word for the women's hats Gibson sold at the November gift show from 2005 through 2010. In 2011, her family manned the hat booth and donated the proceeds to the Kenan Center.
"She'd be thrilled, no doubt," said Brian Roth of Barker, her brother, after Friday's ceremony. "A while ago, she did some sculpture. She had her hand in everything, arts-wise. She used to reupholster furniture, restore antiques."
"Wendy Gibson loved being creative. When she wasn't working on something, she was thinking about it or drawing," Kenan Center Executive Director Susan Przybyl said.
The teaching artists at the July sessions were Zack Boehler and Nila Griffis of the Ashford Hollow Foundation, which operates the Griffis Sculpture Park outside Ellicottville. They fabricated the finished products in the Essex Street Arts Center on Buffalo's West Side.
"Our focus at the Ashford Hollow Foundation is working with kids," Boehler said. "We do teaching all over Western New York."
The July sessions were their first at the Kenan Center.
The sculpture in front of the arena is about 10 feet tall and depicts several symbols, including a guitar, musical notes, an artist's palette and theater masks emerging from a human head. The one near the garden, more than 7 feet tall, depicts the world adorned with a heart-shaped peace sign, held by an adult. A child holding a candle reaches up from below, and a second child sits atop the planet.
"We started by talking about good traits," Boehler said of his strategy at the summer classes. "It's knowledge and creativity coming together to create peace and love."
"This whole project was done for under $5,000," Przybyl said. A plaque at the base of the arena sculpture lists 52 donors who gave at least $250 to the Kenan Center between 2010 and this year. Both have signs memorializing Wendy.