The Hollycroft Foundation was the brainchild of William C. Bendig. Known as a "new Renaissance man," Bendig made his mark on the art world as the founder and editor of the influential theARTgallery magazine (1957-1983). As a critic and a collector, he passionately promoted sculpture, which he called "the least understood of all the arts." He was a sought after lecturer (National Gallery of Art, the Corcoran); a juror for major national art competitions; and a contributing curator for such powerhouse art shows as the Whitney Biennial. But his life's work culminated not in the lofty towers of intellectual discourse, but with the real-world act of bringing world-class art to everyday people.
The foundation was launched in 1992 from Bendig's home in Ivoryton. Its original goal was to catalogue the contents of theARTgallery magazine for the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution. Ever the visionary, it wasn't long before Bendig's focus shifted from the past to the future. Within a few years he was organizing art exhibitions, including the "Hollycroft Invitational Series" that premiered in 1994. He recruited top contemporary sculptors, while encouraging and showcasing new talent. By 1996 the invitational featured 120 works drawn from nine states and three countries. These early events evolved into year-round outdoor sculpture exhibitions, each known as the Sculpture Mile, mounted and continuously refreshed in various Connecticut towns and villages.
Outspoken, energetic, and media-savvy, with a natural showman's flair, Bendig was very much the face -and the voice-- of the Hollycroft Foundation. Over the years he kept Hollycroft in the spotlight, generating coverage in major publications and on network television.
In 2016, his health in decline, Bendig hand-picked his successor, artist Brian Wendler, who had been an exhibiting sculptor in several of Hollycroft's Sculpture Miles. The two worked side-by-side not only as mentor and pupil, but as colleagues and friends. Bendig remained an engaged organizer and promoter nearly until the end of his life. Wendler recalls that when Bendig heard his own dire prognosis, he was incredulous, and exclaimed "But there's so much work to be done!"
William C. Bendig passed away on July 14, 2019 at the age of 92. Today, his vision for the Sculpture Shore has been realized, and continues to evolve and enrich the community - an everlasting legacy and evidence of an extraordinary life.