Sculptor Gustavo Beckelmann

Building International Understanding

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That is noted sculptor Elden Tefft on the left. Eldon is retired from teaching sculpture at the University of Kansas and maybe best known locally as the creator of the statue of Moses in front of Smith Hall. His representation of former KU Chancellor Franklin Murphy is in a sculpture garden at UCLA along with works of such notables as Jean Arp, Barbara Hepworth and Henri Matisse.That is internationally known sculptor Gustavo Beckelmann on the right. Gustavo is from Paraguay and is in Kansas this month as part of the “Visual Encounters with Paraguay” exhibit at the Mulvane Art Museum at Washburn University in Topeka.Elden Tefft taught sculpture in Paraguay in 1989. His trip was part of a cultural exchange through Kansas Paraguay Partners and supported, in part, by Partners of the Americas.

Gustavo says that in 1989 he was a struggling artist who was trying to create bronze sculptures. His methods were primitive and results were disappointing. He attended Professor Tefft’s class in Asuncion Paraguay and his artistic life was transformed. Elden taught the “lost wax” method of working with bronze which is an ancient technique still used today.

Following these classes Jerry Miller, one of Elden’s collaborators, helped Gustavo build the type of kiln needed to work successfully with bronze. Gustavo has gone on to create sculptures that have won international prizes. He has also passed on what he has learned by helping sculptors in other countries build kilns like the one that Jerry helped him construct.

This is one of hundreds of stories of international collaborations in diverse fields including agriculture, health and education that build understanding across cultures. In this case a young struggling artist in a developing country learned the skills needed to build a successful career. For his part Elden made lifelong friends in a little known South American country.

I heard yesterday that the US now spends more on defense than all of the other countries in the world combined. Perhaps if we spent more on building relationships like that of Elden and Gustavo we would need to spend less on defense.

Posted to the Lawrence Journal World-Newspaper Blog by KPP Member John Poertner

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