Local History Matters: ‘Sculpture for the people’

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Shore Sculpture, 19 Valley Road, Port Washington
Ross Lumpkin

Valley Road veers north off Harbor Road for about four blocks and morphs into Avenue C. In pre-colonial times, it was part of a Matinecock Native American path between what is now Sands Point and the Mill Pond.

It evolved into a dirt road for early settlers to take their produce to the old red mill to be processed. In the nineteenth century, it became known as Hicksville Road after the farmer who built his homestead and barn on the west side of the road.

Everything changes, and in today’s busy world, Valley Road is one of Port’s cut-throughs with an odd mix of homes, auto body shops, and warehouses.

If you passed this way not long ago, you would have been surprised to see a collection of large scale, geometric metal designs – often in vivid reds, blues, or yellows – on display in front of the warehouse at number 19.

It was the home of Shore Sculpture. Upon retirement in 1997 at the age of 71, Jerry Shore converted the warehouse into a studio to pursue his life-long dream to be a professional sculptor and worked there until his death in 2014.

Whatever your feelings are about modern art, its unlikely presence on Valley Road caught you off guard. Jerry wanted us to take a break from our humdrum lives, to stop and think, and maybe ask ourselves a few questions. It was the logical act of a man whose mantra, which was printed on his business pens, read “Sculpture for the People.”

Jerry’s life was a life worth remembering and knowing more about; not only because of the unique contribution he made to Port Washington, but because of how he channeled his creative drive as a successful entrepreneur, a courageous artist, and a beloved family patriarch.

In 1954 he co-founded Park Electrochemical Corp. and served as its CEO until his retirement in 1996. Today, it is a multi-national company on the New York Stock Exchange with more than 500 employees. Thanks to his success in business, he was able to settle his growing family in Sands Point in the 1960s where he and his wife Cecile raised three children. His family was his priority.

Even with his dream of becoming a sculptor on the backburner, his creative impulse was front and center in everyday life. “He was always making something in his studio/workshop,” recalls his daughter Robin. “My father was a jack of all trades, a fix-it guy, a problem solver. He was always finding creative ways to resolve problems – be it in his business life or fixing a broken refrigerator.

He spent a lot of time looking at art – galleries and museums were always on the agenda. He was an avid viewer – loving and learning from seeing others’ artwork.”
Although today #19 is just another warehouse, there will soon be a Historic Designation Plaque there to remind us of Jerry Shore.

Fortunately, some of his sculptures have been placed at the Bay Walk in Port Washington North and at the Village Club in Sands Point. Next week, we’ll take a look at three of those sculptures he made for the people of Port Washington.

Ross Lumpkin is a trustee at the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society, www.cowneck.org.

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