Businessman and philanthropist Harold Grinspoon has always had a love of nature — especially trees. Grinspoon is fascinated by the bend and reach of fallen branches, logs, and charred tree stumps.
But it was a downed cherry tree in his own backyard that stirred him to what he calls a “personal awakening” and a late-in-life vocation as a sculptor.
Producer Dave Fraser brings us his story.
Go behind the scenes at Grinspoon’s workshop in this digital exclusive segment.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Businessman and philanthropist Harold Grinspoon has always had a love of nature, especially trees in all forms, being taken with the bends and reach of fallen branches, logs, and charred tree stumps.
But it was a downed cherry tree in his own backyard that stirred him to what he calls a personal awakening and a late-in-life vocation as a sculptor. Producer Dave Fraser brings us his story.
Harold Grinspoon, Artist: You can see the natural beauty of this piece of wood.
Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: Well-known for his work as a philanthropist, Harold Grinspoon became an artist less than ten years ago, working mostly with reclaimed wood from downed trees and branches from all over the country.
Today, in his nineties, Grinspoon, who suffered from throat and tongue cancer in the early 1980s, is having the time of his life watching his ideas blossom into reality.
Harold Grinspoon: It’s very joyful. It’s very refreshing. You always want to keep your mind sharp and going, if possible. And sometimes your body gets aged little bit, but if you are blessed to have a mind and work with it…
Dave Fraser: His sculptures have risen out of a life of creative ventures in both business and establishing the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, which provides literacy and heritage for Jewish children.
People close to Grinspoon say he is always thinking about the next impactful item or sculpture he can create.
Madeline Calabrese, Harold Grinspoon Sculptures Curator: His creative mind is always thinking, so he’ll browse antique shops.
He browses through Brimfield Fair and certain items catch his eye. “Oh, this can be a top.” “This can be a point of interest; this could be a great base.” And he buys them up and brings them to the shop.
And he mentioned today he had 12 new ones in his mind and… that’s exciting and it shocks me sometimes he’s way ahead of me and I don’t even know, they’re not on paper yet.
Dave Fraser: A lifelong nature lover, Grinspoon began retrieving unique specimens of wood while on hikes that he took all around the world.
But it was at his home in Longmeadow that his inspiration for tree sculptures was born.
Harold Grinspoon: I think seven or eight years ago, there was a cherry tree that fell down in my backyard. A big, massive, high cherry tree. It was curved.
So, we had that up and quartered it and it came out to be very nice. And then we just kept on going, and now we’re doing lots of other things besides wood.
Dave Fraser: Recently, he has moved into working with stainless steel spheres and rods, glass globes, and other found objects.
Even old bicycles have made their way into one of his works.
Harold Grinspoon: Simple concept. Wow! Bicycles! I was waiting for Paul. Just scattered all over the place. It’s beautiful.
Dave Fraser: Grinspoon’s towering sculptures are the result of intensely collaborative efforts that marry his vision, reflected in his preliminary sketches, with the logistics of sourcing, transporting, transforming, and preserving fallen trees.
He established an indoor-outdoor studio space at an Agawam corporate property, where his charitable foundations are based. The trees are allowed to dry for as long as eight months.
Harold Grinspoon: Probably it takes over a year– years’ time for the concept to the finished product, because you’re going through several pieces at one time.
As you go through them, you’re changing your concept, you’re changing your idea. You’re always moving the idea around.
Dave Fraser: Although its creation came late in life, Grinspoon’s art has been percolating over many years.
“I’ve spent a lifetime evolving as a person,” he says, “attempting to grow and expand my thinking and capacity for caring and generosity and being present in the moment. Art has ultimately been the gift that unlocked more understanding than I could have imagined.”
Harold Grinspoon: When you’re out in nature, physically work out, it’s these endorphins. I guess that’s the right word, endorphins? They take over.
And if you’re a cranky old guy, you become a smiley, wonderful human being.
Madeline Calabrese: He’s the mixture of, you know, aging out and yet being vibrant.
He’s fighting against time. And he wants to make the most of every single moment and day that he has. And it’s — it’s — it’s a great way to live.