Route 74 in Cornwall is about as pastoral as it gets in Addison County: Dilapidated barns and dairy cows dot the expansive fields rolling toward Lake Champlain. But recently, motorists have been noticing something less rustic cropping up in the pastures as they cross into Shoreham. An enormous silver ring gleams on a far-off knoll. A huge metal loop resembles a twisted orange pool noodle. Exuberant steel dancers beckon curious passersby.
There's no road sign yet, but these and other pieces represent the beginning of Lemon Fair Sculpture Park at the home of Frank and Elaine Ittleman. Visitors who happen on it can meander the one-mile loop, passing about a dozen large-scale outdoor artworks. On July 1, the couple will officially open the park to the public.
On a blazing hot May afternoon, the Ittlemans offer an informal tour of the loop to a pair of reporters. They've mowed a path through the tall grass, and the walk is mostly flat, with a few gentle hills to get the heart pumping. Elaine explains that they will use an old barn near the entrance as a sort of welcome area to provide visitors with water, seating and information on the artists.
While the Ittlemans are both art lovers — they've collected paintings and photography for many years, and Elaine is a painter herself — their day jobs are in the medical field. Frank is a heart surgeon; Elaine is a labor-delivery nurse at The University of Vermont Medical Center, where they met three decades ago.
Though they live most of the time in Charlotte, the Ittlemans bought 350 acres in Shoreham 10 years ago as part of their retirement plan. They removed some falling-down barns and built a small house on the property. Elaine put in horse jumps — she rides and hunts with Green Mountain Hounds. About five years ago, the sculpture collecting began.
"I've always had an artistic bent," Frank says. "I've applied it to my surgery and the way I work in my profession. When we bought this property, it seemed to be a perfect opportunity to express my intrigue with outdoor sculpture."
Five years ago, for Frank's 65th birthday, Elaine commissioned the swirling green piece, "Lime Tonic," that currently sits in front of their house. It's by Charles Orme, a UVM-educated artist who lives in New York and Arizona.
"That was the first one," says Frank. "And then it was almost like a virus that couldn't be cured."
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Frank and Elaine Ittleman next to "LimeTonic" by Charles Orme
He reconnected with a former Dartmouth College classmate, Vermont sculptor David Stromeyer (who has his own Cold Hollow Sculpture Park, in Enosburg), and bought "Red Note." Stromeyer's sweeping configuration of red-painted steel looks like it's ready to take flight.
Then the Ittlemans invited Christopher Curtis over. They wanted to know if the Stowe sculptor and co-owner of West Branch Gallery & Sculpture Park thought their Shoreham property was appropriate for exhibiting sculpture. "He took one look at this and said, 'My God, it's beautiful. You could fill this up with hundreds of sculptures,'" Frank recalls.
On his way out, Curtis, who typically works in stone, left the couple with a photo of his first work in stainless steel. "I immediately loved it," says Frank, who called the artist the next day to buy it. "The Kiss," a pair of steel curves flirting with each other, now resides in front of the Ittlemans' house.
Lemon Fair Sculpture Park — named for the stream that cuts through the property on its way to Otter Creek — currently features a dozen works by artists from Vermont and beyond. Several more are on their way.
"I think public art is very important," declares Frank. "It gives people a great deal of pleasure."
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"The Kiss" by Christopher Curtis (left) and "Red Note" by David Stromeyer
Since they began situating their sculptures around the property, the Ittlemans say they've had many impromptu visitors. "Mrs. Barnes from Shoreham tells me, 'Every time I drive up, I look at my dancers,'" Frank says. She's referring to Texas artist Jerry Daniel's quartet of figures in rusting metal, limbs seemingly in motion.
When the park is officially open, the Ittlemans hope to mount temporary exhibits, too. "I like the idea of inviting unknown artists, people who are just starting out," says Elaine. Venues that can exhibit large-scale outdoor sculpture are few and far between in Vermont, she points out.
The Ittlemans have limitations on what they can realistically fit on their property, and afford, Frank acknowledges. And there's plenty of work to do. He comes down to Shoreham most weekends to tend to the park, cleaning the sculptures, mowing, clipping and trimming. "They take upkeep and attention," he says. "It's good therapy."
"The important thing now is siting them properly," Frank continues. "Elaine put the 'Light Ring' out there," he adds, gesturing to the knoll bearing the massive silver circle by Illinois artist Bruce White. "I had no idea how effective it would be that far away."
When clouds roll in, the ring's appearance changes completely. Glistening and bright earlier in the day, it's now a dark contrast against the sky. Elaine notes that the ring glows in the sunrise.
"The sculptures are part of our lives," says Frank. "I really love them."
The original print version of this article was headlined "Monumental Meadows"
Megan James began writing for Seven Days in 2010, first as Associate Arts Editor. She later became an editor for Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT, and is currently a freelance contributor.