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Don White teaches sculpting in Chile

- an article by Ramón Provoste Saavedra published in a local newspaper in Nueva Imperial, Chile, in May 2004, and translated from the Spanish by Walt and Betty Whitehurst

We find ourselves in the company of US sculptor Donald White, in his work as a Methodist missionary, which he has done for the greater part of his life. He remembers that a great number of his 70 years have been dedicated to sculpting.

He has lived with a passion for sculpting, and has taught it in both public and private schools in his native Texas. In addition, he has traveled to 14 countries in the last 15 years, leaving in each one examples of his work, whether in wood, marble, or metal.

Don White teaches sculpture in Chile
Don White teaching sculpture at the La Granja Rural Institute, Chile

In these countries, which include Russia, Mexico, and El Salvador, among others, he has taught English, religion, and sculpting. The trips have been financed by his artistic creations, mainly the reproduction of gorillas in distinctive materials for a collector in his country.

His educative labor indicates that it is a good occasion to instill values to children by means of art, saying that “the human spirit needs beautiful things in life when it presents opportunities”.

On this occasion he visited the city as a volunteer, sharing his experience with the students of the Methodist School at La Granja, through classes of modeling in clay. When mayor Manuel Salas contacted him about the possibility of making a wood statue of a Mapuche, White gratefully agreed to take on this job as a part of the city’s recognition of the Mapuche culture, a work which is worth close to 800 thousand dollars.

For the community leaders, this project represents the possibility of having a testimony to the cultural patrimony of our community and region, of the values and traditions of the Mapuche culture, in a city with a high percentage of people of this ethnic origin, who manifest that “it was necessary to have a remembrance that showed the force, strength and work of a town in the conservation of its world view, depicted in the Mapuche image.”

The first thing that had to happen in order to see that this work was done was to obtain the trunk of a native tree, which was donated by the Barrera Cansino family. This made it possible for work to begin on the sculpture March 31, when the sculptor hammered the first blows to the wood to begin to shape a 4 meter tall structure.

As time went on, two youths joined the project, Hanz Ithal and Dario Marifil, who have become White’s assistants in these months, dedicating themselves to working with their hands which has been for them an enriching experience.

After two months the sculpture is almost finished, only lacking a few details that White expects to finish by the end of this month when he has to return to his country. The work will be displayed in a place where all can enjoy its beauty, including those who are just passing through the city.

After this sculpture, White plans to dedicate himself to two projects, the artistic reproduction of people in the Bible and the writing of a book in which he describes the life of the apostle Paul. This is a life dedicated to art and to religion, and he will spend the last years of his life in the union of both passions of the spirit.