Converse Launches Year-Long Sculpture Exhibition by Alumna Berry Bate

Converse College will host “The Emerging Spirit,” a series of 12 metal sculptures created by nationally renowned artist and Converse alumna Berry Bate, beginning April 25, 2010. Varying in shapes and sizes up to nearly 18 feet, the works will be displayed across the campus grounds through March 2011.

According to Bate, each of the exhibition’s sculptures represents an aspect of the experiences and qualities that are unique to the women of Converse. “This show brings to life a vision that has been quietly evolving within me for many years. The pieces reflect the virtues instilled at a women’s college, and specifically those at Converse where the unique atmosphere provides a foundation for a lifetime sense of unity, support, spirituality, strength and self-actualization.”

In conjunction with the exhibition launch, Bate will serve as keynote speaker for the college’s Founder’s Day service on April 23. “Emerging Spirit” will open to the public on Sunday, April 25, with Bate hosting a slideshow lecture at 3:00 pm in Hartness Auditorium in Carmichael Hall. Afterwards, visitors may take a walking tour of the exhibition led by Converse students. Admission to the opening event and to the exhibition is free of charge. Comfortable walking shoes are suggested.

Throughout the year-long exhibition, a self-guided walking tour brochure will be housed on the campus grounds, at the “Emerging Spirit” sculpture adjacent to Wilson Hall.

“Converse is thrilled to present this incredible year-long exhibition of Berry Bate's sculpture. The works bring a dynamism to the campus, inviting students, alumnae and community members to wander and ponder. The exhibition not only showcases the exceptional talents of a gifted Converse alumna but also the unique benefits and opportunities of the Converse educational experience,” said President Betsy Fleming. “Berry's entrepreneurial spirit and artistic talent demonstrate the strengths of the Converse creative community.”

The exhibit is made possible through the support of the McKinney-Jernigan Creativity Grant at Converse College, Carolina First and Mr. and Mrs. William S. Hummers III.

An accomplished artist, business owner and entrepreneur, Bate has distinguished herself in the male-dominated field of metalworking. A native of Bronxville, New York, Bate developed her passion for art while studying music at Converse. Looking for something different to balance the intensity of her music classes, Bate participated in an independent-study welding class with sculpture professor Mac Boggs. It was there that Bate began to draw from such concepts as theme and variation from her musical training, and apply these to art.

Bate graduated from Converse in 1975 with a major in vocal performance and a minor in music education. Following graduation, she taught music and related arts. Although Bate was enjoying much success as a teacher, she felt that being a metal sculptor was her true calling. And in 1980, Bate ventured into architectural and sculptural ironwork in the residential and commercial arenas when she founded Asheville Ironworks, Inc.

One of her first challenges was to create the main fence on the pinnacle of Chimney Rock in North Carolina. Due to the complicated building process of the fence, Bate was required to hang from ropes while welding the intricate iron pattern. In the late 1980’s, her excellent reputation and creativity led her to become a consultant for the restoration of the Statue of Liberty and to handle restorations for the Historic Charleston Foundation. After selling Asheville Ironworks, Inc. in 1995, Bate now focuses her attention on her current studio, Sculpture by Berry Bate.

Throughout her career, Bate’s creativity and unique ability have led her work to become heirlooms among private collectors and sources of pride for corporations and the public. Her work is included in collections at the Biltmore Estate, Brookgreen Gardens, the Grove Park Inn, Neiman Marcus Stores, the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts, the Billy Graham Training Center, Converse College, Furman University, the City of Spartanburg and Extended Stay America Headquarters, among many others.