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Arts: Former Brookgreen CEO gets top sculpture award

By Charles Swenson
For the Observer

The former president and CEO of Brookgreen Gardens will receive the Medal of Honor from the National Sculpture Society for his contributions to American sculpture.

Bob Jewell will join the ranks of several past recipients with ties to Brookgreen, including its co-founder Archer Huntington; Joseph Veach Noble, a former chairman; and Jim Jennewein, a trustee emeritus. “Whatever contribution I made, which I didn’t think was much, they appreciated,” Jewell said.

Jewell has served on the society’s board since 2008 and is a member of its executive committee. “He’s really been an invaluable board member,” said Gwen Pier, the society’s executive director.

Jewell retired this month, but remains a Brookgreen trustee. He said he took the same approach to the society that he did to Brookgreen. “We need to take a business approach to what we’re doing,” he said. That ensures they will survive to fulfill their missions.

During those years, the society board worked with a team of nonprofit attorneys to adapt and restructure its programs. These were years of substantial change and critical policy decisions, Pier said.

Michel Langlais, a sculptor and society president, called Jewell “a great human being” who “has humanity, intelligence, knowledge and good sense.” Those qualities – combined with his experience in business, finance, and running a large non-profit institution – were invaluable to the society board, she said.

“The society was struggling a little bit,” he said. It has 115 sculptor members and 487 associate members. It’s budget is over $800,000. Last year it launched an ambassador program to collaborate with sculptors around the country. This year it is planning a major exhibit at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York that will travel to the Naples Botanical Garden in Florida.

The society is working to gain more exposure and maintain its membership base, which is a challenge in an art form that isn’t easy to take up. “We’re trying to get more sculptors involved at a young age,” Jewell said.

The award is given “as the occasion arises,” Pier said. Jewell will receive the medal at a June ceremony in New York.

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