Project Update: Fundraising efforts resulted in donations totaling $19,000, putting the project over the $15,000 goal, which will allow the project to be expanded with an additional otter. The project will be implemented in the fall of 2022, and students will have a chance to visit Wendy’s Nelson studio. 

Otters at Play

There’s an exciting opportunity to bring the work of a nationally known  artist to the Nelson School for a striking, permanent visual installation: a sculpture of otters at play on the large rocks between the school parking lot and the road.  (The otter is the school mascot, and, in real life, a resident of the wetland across from the school.)

Best of all, the artist is Nelson resident Wendy Klemperer. Wendy, who spends nearly every summer and fall at her family home in Nelson, recently received the Keene Sentinel’s Ruth and James Ewing Arts Award in 3D visual arts, among other honors, and her work has been commissioned for public and private spaces from Florida to Alaska, and shown in galleries around the country. To see examples of her welded metalwork, go to Be sure to view the rearing horses, prowling catamount, and other creatures, and read about her work process.

Most of Wendy’s work is inspired by the animals and natural beauty she has loved since childhood. She first thought she might become a veterinarian or marine biologist, then went to art school in New York City. In her 30s, she learned to weld and found she could “paint” in 3D with rebar and salvaged metal.

“Otters have a wonderful playfulness,” Wendy says, “and the challenge will be to capture their joyfulness and dexterity. They tend to be sleek and round, so the metal has to convey that fluidity.” She will create the otters mostly from salvaged and found metal, bent and welded to show the animals’ sinuous movement.

Nelson School students will be able to watch the installation of the otters, and Wendy has also offered to do classroom presentations with videos about how she cuts, welds, and bends metal to convey the essence of animals, birds, and fish. Depending on the timing, students may also have the opportunity to visit her Nelson workshop. Wendy’s ability to combine her knowledge of biology and anatomy with her skill as a welder and her artistry fits right in with Nelson School’s STEAM curriculum and emphasis on hands-on learning and problem-solving skills. It is a beautiful melding of nature, science, and art.

This project, which is supported enthusiastically by the Nelson School staff and school board, will showcase Wendy Klemperer’s distinctive work and inspire our students – our future citizens, scientists, and artists.

Thank you everyone who contributed so generously.

The Otter Sculpture Committee

Kelly French

Ed Schillemat

From Wendy Klemperer

(originally published on this website when Wendy was a recipient of the Ruth and James Ewing Arts Awards) 

Wendy Klemperer at work

I grew up spending summers with my brother Paul and sister Joyce in Nelson, in the vacation house that my paternal grandparents, based in NYC, had purchased in 1940. Our parents would come up for the weekends.

I moved from the Boston area to New York City in 1980 to go to art school at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and for about a decade spent little time in NH.

Though I loved New York and embraced the downtown art scene, there were a lot of challenges. Waitressing to earn a living and hot Brooklyn summers in the city were hard to take eventually. After a residency at MacDowell Colony in 1986 in Peterborough it occurred to me I had a built-in opportunity to escape the city and make my artwork. For the next 30 years I spent July-October in Nelson, and gradually, with local builders, developed a wonderful sculpture studio here. Over the years I reconnected with childhood summer friends, and met many more people, discovering a rich and supportive community. Though my New York world has educated and driven me all these years, Nelson provides refuge and renewal, acceptance and continuity. Immersing myself in nature and riding horses with a local friend touched something very deep within me. My artwork found support and blossomed here in a way that reinvigorated me to keep on in New York, where recognition was hard won and life was often challenging day to day.

Wendy on the Web

Conceptual Drawings