These are the words of sculptor Cobert C. Collins, a man who loved art and life and desired to share his passion with the world. He believed the process of making art was only complete when it was seen by others.
A collection of Cobert C. Collins’ art work, the bronze metal sculptures you see sprinkled throughout the City, are on display for you to enjoy, appreciate and interpret.
How these sculptures came to Westerville is quite a story. Collins started his career as a restaurateur, owning a couple successful eateries in upstate New York.
“He started fooling around with clay and began creating ice carvings for catering orders for the business. He realized the talent was there. He liked doing it and wanted to pursue this growing artistic ability further,” said Mike Collins, Cobert Collins’ son.
In 1971, Cobert Collins began learning the craft of welding. He developed the technique of modeling bronze into stainless steel through a direct welding process. His concept was to eliminate the hard, manufactured look of welded steel.
“He used the metal to show movement, change and the importance of bonds between people. He was so full of joy and fascinated by our connection to the world, to each other and art,” said Mike.
After exhibiting at a couple small galleries in New York, Collins wanted to transition into making art full-time. So, he sold the restaurants and moved to West Palm Beach to focus on his craft.
“Both my father and I moved the same year for our careers. As he traveled to Florida, I settled into Westerville. It was definitely a turning point in our lives, a new chapter,” said Mike.
By 1981, Collin’s work began to take off. At the pinnacle of his career, Collins had his pieces in 16 different cities.
“He was one of the leading artists in Palm Beach County. I was so proud of him,” said Mike. “He had the perfect combination of business savvy and true artistic skill that made him so successful.”
During the same time, Mike Collins’ love for the City of Westerville, the education system and the parks was growing. Mike Collins helped create the Westerville Parks Foundation when he served a term as Chair for the Recreation Advisory Board, and he is now an Ohio State Board of Education member.
After his father’s passing on March 19, 2013, Mike and his sister, Ricki, wanted to see their father’s legacy live on. A large portion of Collins’ work was given to the Westerville Parks Foundation in partnership with the Cobert C. Collins Memorial Sculpture Fund, LLC. Through this partnership his work continues to be displayed and sold in the greater Westerville area. (Fifty percent of the proceeds from the sale of these sculptures goes to the Westerville Parks Foundation, which further supports the Westerville Parks and Recreation Department and its programs.)
“I have such a deep history with the Parks and Recreation Department and with the art world,” said Mike. “I saw this as a chance to marry those two interests. It is heartwarming to see my father’s work being appreciated here.”
It is too difficult for Mike to narrow down the list when it comes to his favorite piece. Many of the sculptures remind him of memories of his father and their family, like “Challenger” in front of the Westerville Community Center.
“It was 12:05 p.m. in January. I had gone to Florida to visit my Father. We were all driving in the car and looked up knowing the Challenger shuttle was set to take off around that time. We saw the explosion right before our eyes. It is something you will never forget. He made that piece as a tribute to the crew members,” said Mike.
The Collins sculptures are now part of a community-wide art initiative being developed in Westerville for years to come.
“We are honored to have the Collins pieces in Westerville as the Parks and Recreation Department continues to grow public art in the community. The sculptures truly add aesthetic and educational value to the City,” said Westerville Parks and Recreation Director Randy Auler.
Mike hopes the collection will serve as a doorway for more artists in the area.
“Over the years, my father mentored many young artists. He wanted to see the art industry flourish. Our hope is that his work will continue to expose Westerville to various forms of artistic expression, become an inspiration to others and help pave the way for other artists to start a career here,” said Mike.
The next time you see a Collins sculpture, stop for a moment. See the celebration of life and help complete the artistic process that Cobert C. Collins believed in.
Click here for additional information on Cobert C. Collins and where to view his sculptures in Westerville. The Parks and Recreation Department is in production of a video featuring ways to enjoy public art in the City including the Collins Collection, so check back for more.