Delta State sculpture loaned for International Ballet Competition

The Matthew-Sanders Sculpture Garden at Delta State University is loaning one of its sculptures, “Dancer 10,” to the International Ballet Competition in Jackson from June 10-24.

The steel sculpture, which was installed in the Matthew-Sanders Sculpture Garden in 2015, was created by artist Jack Howard-Potter. Like much of Howard-Potter’s work, the stunning piece conveys a sense of fluid action in space by exploring the wide range of movement of the human figure.

The piece was the purchase award winner of the 2015-17 class of sculptures.

“Dancer 10” was moved from Delta State June 7 and was transported to the IBC in Jackson, where it will remain until the competition is completed June 24. Competition attendees will be welcomed with the piece as they arrive at the venue, Thalia Mara Hall.

Ron Koehler, Michael Stanley and Jeff Jackson carefully prepare to take down the Dancer 10 sculpture in order to transport it to Jackson for the USA International Ballet Competition.

The Matthew-Sanders Sculpture Garden operates on a biennial competition, which brings in new pieces for exhibition. The competition provides opportunities for regional and national artists to exhibit their work, makes visible the university’s commitment to artistic endeavors, enhances the vitality of the campus environment, and offers students first-hand educational experiences.

The inaugural sculpture competition was held in 2000, becoming the first sculpture garden of its kind in Mississippi. The collection now boasts 22 pieces with the main garden in front of Delta State’s Bologna Performing Arts Center, along with a number of pieces installed across campus.

In 2015, pieces spread into the community starting at nearby GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi, and later, into historic downtown Cleveland.

The IBC is considered one of the world’s premier ballet competitions, providing ongoing dance programming and promoting new audience support. It is a two-week “Olympic-style” competition for top young dancers and a major stepping-stone toward a professional career.

Competitors from all over the world vie for gold, silver and bronze medals; cash prizes; and company contracts. The audience is filled with company directors interested in hiring dancers, and for this reason, many dancers leave with jobs — possibly the grandest prize of all.

Mona Nicolas, executive director of the IBC in Jackson, called Nan Sanders, co-founder of the sculpture garden, to see if the loan was possible. Sanders then contacted the chief operating officers of the garden, Michael Stanley, chair of Delta State’s Department of Art, and Ron Koehler, former department chair.

“It’s such an honor for us to have a piece from the sculpture garden included at the International Ballet Competition,” said Sanders. “The piece is so fitting for the event, and I think it will be incredibly stunning for everyone to see. It’s also a great opportunity for us to spread the word about the sculpture garden.”

Stanley echoed Sanders’ excitement for transporting the piece to Jackson.

“It’s a beautiful sculpture and it fits right in with what the IBC is all about,” said Stanley. “We’re really glad to partner with them and provide the sculpture for the two weeks they’re in town. It’s a great opportunity for us to promote the Matthew-Sanders Sculpture Garden, and hopefully it will get some people from Jackson to come up and visit.”

Motivated by his study of human anatomy and movement, Howard-Potter works with steel to create large-scale figurative sculptures. His work has been on display throughout the world in outdoor sculpture parks, galleries and public art exhibitions.

“My sculptures seek to convey the motion of the body in extremely stressful and beautiful positions; the moment that a dancer is at the peak of a jump; the weightless split second before a body succumbs to gravity,” said Howard-Potter. “I am describing an ephemeral action in steel to convey this moment for eternity.”

Howard-Potter grew up in New York City, where he was inspired by the public sculpture of Alexander Calder, George Ricky and various performance, dance and artistic exposure. He earned a bachelor’s in art history and sculpture from Union College and has been making and displaying his original sculptures since 1997.

Sanders said she is honored to see how the garden has grown and expanded into the community through the years.

“It’s very gratifying to see the sculpture garden coming into its maturity,” said Sanders. “We have so many wonderful pieces now across campus, but the town has also bought into it with pieces at the GRAMMY Museum and in downtown Cleveland. It’s lovely to see how people have embraced it as a special feature for campus and community.”

Learn more about the Matthew-Sanders Sculpture Garden at


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