This article was written and published by the High Point Enterprise.
by: Guy Lucas – Enterprise Director
The most-popular bronze statues that Metropolitan Galleries sells are ones you might never find in its warehouse on W. Green Drive unless your timing is right. On a recent tour of the ware house, the timing was not right, as Director of Operations Max Taro explained. “As you can see, there are no deer back there right now,” he said. “When they come in, they fly out the door.” But the warehouse otherwise contains a bronze menagerie – lions, tigers, bears, herons, horses, squirrels, dragons, children, angels, even a 10-foot cherub, to name a few. On the day of the tour, an elk standing 8 or 10 feet high without its horns attached stood wrapped and crated in the back of the warehouse to be shipped West, there to be mounted atop a giant rock on an estate.
Owner Cindy Bennett started the business with her first husband, the late Steven Bennett, while they were living in Atlanta. “I’ve always loved art, and I loved statuary,” she said. Their only office was their home. They rented warehouse space and drove a truck around the country to make deliveries, and they rented space at High Point Market in the Hamilton Market’s “temporaries” area.
In 1997 the Bennett’s moved to Greensboro and rented warehouse space on Ennis Street, right behind the building now housing Metropolitan. Soon after, the business had grown enough that they started hiring drivers and leasing trucks. If there has been a surprise in the 30 years since the business began, Bennett said, it’s the secret to her success: “People love statuary as much as I do!” Metropolitan occupies what would be an unassuming, even plain brick building if not for the dozen or so large statues surrounding its parking lot, which include a man on a chariot pulled by dolphins, a boy riding an ostrich, and a mermaid cradling a large fish.
Though Metropolitan is not a retail business open to the public, Taro and assistant Kat McAdoo said the statues out front regularly draw the curious, often families with young children, who buzz at the locked entry door and ask for a peek. Inside the entry is a smallish business office that looks just as unassuming as the brick outer walls. Everything changes at the door to the warehouse, McAdoo said. “What I tell people is that’s the door way to Narnia,” she said. “It’s very overwhelming.”
In fact Metropolitan boasts that it has the largest selection of bronze statues, fountains and accessories to be found, at least as far as anyone connected with the business knows. It typically sells more than 600 a year to clients across the country and as far away as South Korea.
Even after working for Metropolitan for four years, McAdoo finds that when she walks through the ware house, she often notices statues or fountains she had never seen before. And the selection keeps growing because every now and then some one wants a custom-made piece, and Metropolitan can make it – and duplicate it for anyone else. For instance, someone last year wanted a figure of Pan, the horned, goat-legged Greek god of the wild, that was different than had been found elsewhere. Now in the warehouse, there Pan sits, literally, his furry rear end perched on a stump, arms resting on his legs, holding his pan flute in’one hand while pensively gazing out upon the rest of the menagerie.
One of the largest custom piece that has been done is an enormous griffin that can be found at Grandover Resort atop a large stone pedestal in the roadway median at the entrance of Grandover Parkway on Groometown Road.
Taro contributed the idea for one recently added small piece: a bear riding a tricycle with a basket on the front. “I’d seen similar concepts, but they were small and concrete,” he said. “I thought, you know, I bet if we had that in bronze it would do very well!” Adding a new piece to the menagerie, or doing a custom piece, is no easy thing. First, an artist has to translate the concept into an image on paper. Then a clay sculpture is made. There are a lot of steps – to be precise – before a finished piece is ready. McAdoo said that is the thing about the business that still surprises her the most. “You don’t realize how much goes into the production of these pieces.” she said.