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Anatomy expertise led sculptor to molding masterpieces

Event co-founder Marci Weisgold, a renowned sculptor, heads more than 160 artists who will display their work.

Marci Weisgold's sculpture "Rhythmic Gold" was Best in Show at the 2023 Art in the Park.
Marci Weisgold's sculpture "Rhythmic Gold" was Best in Show at the 2023 Art in the Park.
Photo by Jay Heater
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When it comes to a smile, University Park's Arnold and Marci Weisgold are perfectionists.

Arnold Weisgold is a periodontist who from 1973-2006 was the Director of Postdoctoral Periodontal Prosthesis at the University Pennsylvania. That speaks for itself.

However, Arnold Weisgold said nobody understands a smile quite like his wife, Marci.

"She is something else," he said of his wife of 64 years. "When you smile, she sees things that most of us don't. When you smile, all those muscles in your face move."

As a budding sculptor at the University of Pennsylvania, Marci Weisgold studied under EvAngelos Frudakis. Upon Frudakis death in 2019 at the age of 97, the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote in his obituary, "Mr. Frudakis was a major figure in the world of 20th-century sculpture, not only for the many statues he created for public spaces but also for the influence he had on other sculptors."

Marci Weisgold was among them.

Marci Weisgold says there is a point during her work on a new sculpture whee it "comes to life."
Photo by Jay Heater

The same obituary quoted a former quote by Frudakis that read, “I strive to capture the beauty of the fleeting moment, to arrest and contain it for all time. The search for the good and the beautiful is the adventure.”

Studying under Frudakis, Marci Weisgold's adventure started with a directive from the master. He told her to learn anatomy if she aspired to be a meaningful sculptor.

"He taught me anatomy," Marci Weisgold said. "There is a rhythm to the body, and I studied with him for 10 years."

She said it took about four years before her work at learning anatomy transformed to her sculptures. But that knowledge became the cornerstone of her impressive career.

On March 16-17 at University Park Country Club, Marci Weisgold will have an exhibit among the more than 160 entries and 60 artists at the annual Art in the Park event. 

It was 2000 when emerging artist Ellen Kaiden convinced Marci Weisgold, who was a highly acclaimed sculptor, to join fine arts photographer Judy Kramer in founding an annual arts show at University Park, which supported the show as a way to get the public to visit the community.

Over the years, the three women built support for the event and recruited the neighborhood's artists to participate. Weisgold, who turns 85 in June, has participated in every show, winning Best of Show in 2023 with her work "Rhythmic Gold." It was the second time she had won Best in Show.

Last year's Art in the Park drew more than 1,450 spectators, who were fortunate to see the work of Weisgold, who is a Fellow Member of the National Sculpture Society, which is considered the preeminent sculptors association in the U.S. She has won many of the nation's top awards that honor sculptors and she is listed as a noteworthy sculptor by Marquis Who's Who.

Marci Weisgold will be 85 in April, but she still works in her home studio.
Photo by Jay Heater

Growing up in Philadelphia, Marci Weisgold began painting at age 6. Her first grade teacher told her mother (Mae Chernoff) that she had some talent. Marci began going to the Fleisher Art Memorial each Saturday for free children's arts classes. She was taught by Maxim Gottleb, who taught at the Fleisher Art Memorial for more than 50 years and whose painting "The Village Thief" hangs at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Marci Weisgold entered a competition at the Fleisher Art Memorial and didn't win, but Gottlieb presented her with a "special prize" of a house made out of toothpicks. He encouraged her to pursue the arts.

As she honed her craft over the years and won many juried art competitions, she landed commissions for her work. However, "If I was making $3 an hour, I was making a lot," she said. "Foundries (factories that produces metal castings) are expensive."

Arnold Weisgold always thought she was a million dollar talent.

"I became so impressed when I saw her sculpting," he said. "I was in awe of her."

Even so, it was more about the beauty of her work than dollars.

Her subjects tended to be mostly children.

"It is a fun thing," she of the reason she choose to concentrate on children. "They are not as serious (as adults). It was charming.

"There is a point where (her sculpture) becomes alive to you. It's a tremendous boost. Children are not easy because they can't pose for very long. But I loved doing children."

When she was commissioned to do a sculpture of children, she would take "all kinds of measurements," and a lot of photos.

"I get to know them personally," she said.

All around the Weisgolds' home are lifelike sculptures that do "come alive."

Arnold Weisgold said those going to Art in the Park will see other artists' work that will produce similar reactions.

"I am so impressed by the art that comes out of this community," he said. "These people (University Park artists) are great."

Those who attend might just get to meet Marci Weisgold, who doesn't make a lot of public appearances but will work a volunteer shift on the second day of the show.

"I am shy," she said.

But she in pleased with her standing in the art community and with her career.

"I feel very fulfilled," she said. "I am a fellow, and that's as high as you can go."



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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