Healdsburg resident donates pogo stick sculpture to Alexander Valley School
A cute set of smiling faces is gracing the campus at Alexander Valley School, and it’s not new students — a large bronze sculpture depicting a gleeful group of kids on pogo sticks was recently installed on the campus.
The sculpture was installed earlier this month and was donated by Healdsburg resident Cheryl Bernstein.
“I received an email from Cheryl … and she said, ‘We drive by your lovely school every day on our way to work and I have a large sculpture that I purchased many years ago and I’m now in a position where I am looking to find someone who is interested in taking the sculpture,’” explained Matt Reno, the school principal and Alexander Valley Union School District superintendent. “I am always interested in pursuing things like this, especially to enhance our school and our school community, so I responded back to her … We were thrilled to pursue this opportunity.”
After their initial correspondence Bernstein shared more information about the piece. New Heights depicts six children bouncing on pogo sticks with looks of joy spread across their faces.
The 5,000-pound sculpture was created by Gary Lee Price and Bernstein came across it in Boston when she was visiting her son at college. She said she was drawn to the sculpture because it, “Allows us to see the value of being a kid.”
The piece traveled from Boston to her home in Bedford, New York where it sat at her front driveway, welcoming visitors.
“What a better way to introduce people to our home,” Bernstein said of the piece. “They (visitors) would come down the long driveway and see it and get so elated.”
Reno, along with the Alexander Valley school board, decided it would be a good addition to the campus.
Despite being large, the piece also has a lot of smaller details to it, such as a frog poking its head out of the one of the kid’s pockets.
When Bernstein moved to California she knew she had to take New Heights with her, and she installed it at the front entryway of her former West Soda Rock Lane home.
After the 2017 fires Berstein decided to move into Healdsburg on Johnson Street. The new property could not fit the large sculpture so she decided to look for a home for it where it would be appreciated.
Bernstein said she inquired at several local schools and hospitals to see if they wanted it, but none expressed as much interest as Reno did at Alexander Valley School.
“Matt Reno understood what the piece would bring to the community,” Bernstein said. “It was a pleasure to give it as a gift.”
Staff and the school board thought of waiting to place the sculpture, reserving it for the courtyard that will come with the new multipurpose building slated to be completed in August 2021, however, after discussion, they decided to install it in the front of the school.
“After input from the staff we felt that the location of it, sort of off to the side as you come into school, really fits nicely,” Reno said.
Before the sculpture was installed the school board had to give the OK in order for the donation to come in.
They also had to check with the Redwood Insurance School Group to ensure that the sculpture was not placed in a zone where students would be climbing all over it with risk of falling, as well as check on the potential environmental impacts the installation would have on the school.
“As a superintendent/principal, it is amazing all of the different things you have to go through though in order to have a donation be made to the school,” Reno said.
He said that since the art was installed kids have been taking pictures in front of it and even sketching it out.
“Art can impact children and adults differently, and this large sculpture that is here to stay has already, just in the last three weeks, brought so many smiles to our kids faces,” Reno said. “There’s probably been over 50 pictures of kids standing by it and their parents taking pictures of them.”
He said the sculpture may even inspire some pogo stick lessons, perhaps integrated into a P.E. class
“Anytime we can turn it into a learning element that is ideal for our kids,” he said.
He added that the sculpture is also symbolic of the AVS pillars of pride: passionate, respectful, inclusive, determined and empowered.
“New Heights is the title of the sculpture and it really is fitting for our kids here. We are often finding opportunities to push our students to new heights, academically, socially, environmentally and the fact that there are six children representing various ethnic backgrounds all enjoying the art of pogo-sticking reaching for new heights with smiles on their faces has generated a lot of buzz amongst our kids,” Reno said.
When asked if he was surprised by the generosity of the community, he said absolutely.
“We’ve seen things online where this has been valued over $100,000, and for someone in the community to reach out to us and to take time to look at a place for excellence for kids and help support out school is incredibly spirited this time of year," Reno said. "We couldn't be more thrilled with our partnership with Cheryl."