By Pete Zamplas
Do feed these Bearfootin’ bears — with simple praise for their visual splendor, immaculate detailing by local artists, and good cause of benefiting several charities.
Twenty big-as-life bears are in full force along Main Street in tourist season from May to October, until finding homes with winning bidders. The figurines are mostly on sidewalks — mostly on corners — on six blocks, from Allen northward to Sixth Avenue. This is the 17th year of the self-touring public art walk. The City of Hendersonville’s Historic Downtown Hendersonville (HDH) coordinates it.
The bears are weatherproofed by an automotive grade clear-coat finish, and mounted on a platform, and kept in the same designated spot downtown rather than rotated around.
The bears are on display until the Bearfootin’ Art Walk Auction on Saturday, Oct. 19 at 5 p.m. on the steps of the Historic Hendersonville Courthouse.
Each bear has a beneficiary that gets half of the auction sale price up to $3,000, and beyond that total proceeds. Thus, by bidding over $3,000 a person ensures more money goes to the non-profit group. Bids start at $1,000.
Each bear’s basic costs were covered by a sponsor donating $800 for it. Sponsorship does not provide ownership of the bear; instead the winning bidder acquires the sculpture. The sponsor selects and commissions an artist to design and decorate the bear. However, HDH safeguards it from going commercial or political. Rules forbid logos, having the sculpture look as a “commercial advertisement for the sponsor,” or “undue influence on the design.” The sponsor typically is either the beneficiary itself, or a civic-minded business owner.
Several winning bidders have donated their bear to its beneficiary group, instead of taking it home.
Last year, organizers noted, the bears raised more than $47,200 for local non-profit organizations. Highest winning bids were $6,100 for My Best Friend Bear benefiting paws4vets/paws4 people, $4,300 for Johnson to help Historic Johnson Farm, $3,600 for Blossom (Housing Assistance Corp.), $3,300 each for Hope in Bloom (IAM) and Aster & Lily (Pardee Hospital Fdn.), $3,000 for Nayeli and Ayasha (Safelight shelter), $2,900 for Into the Wild (local Y), and $2,700 for Henderella (Friends of Habitat).
The bears are a significant tourist attraction, for Downtown Hendersonville and beyond. Tim McIntire and Amy Bauer McIntire of Lancaster, Ohio visited her relatives in this area. Touring the bears was a major draw, they said, in making Main Street a quick destination stop.
They were impressed by the overall artistic display and each bear’s distinctive designs, colors and poses. There are as usual three poses — standing, perched on all fours, and mother cradling a cub.
On the backside of sitting Ursula, Starlotte Englebert sketched animal musicians and other creatures, below a smiling sun. Proceeds of its sale benefit Crossnore School & Children’s Home.
Susan Olivari adorned Circle of Love with diverse human faces. She wrote messages on it about beneficiary Four Seasons Hospice Foundation, across the bottom and on the edge of the bear’s gown.
Abigail Ghrist did detailed psychedelia on Sueño Hermoso (“Beautiful Dream”), to benefit the Hands On! Children’s Museum.
People can sponsor a bear for 2020, and have until Jan. 7, 2020 to pay for it. Call Dalleen Jackson at 233-3205 to do so. Check downtownhendersonville.org and the link under “The Bears are Here!” for more info on the civic art project.