Sculpting a vision: Accomplished artist wants to establish roots, gallery in Noblesville


Artist Kenneth Rydén wants to share his creativity with the City of Noblesville through his sculpture work.

A Chicago native, Rydén recently moved to Noblesville with his wife, Melan, to “write a new chapter in their story.” He sculpts full time and previously owned a studio in Yorktown, where he worked with communities, architects and others on commission pieces. He works out of the garage in his Noblesville home, which he turned into a makeshift studio.

He said the city’s “old-town” aspect drew him to the area.

“I really like the feeling of the town square with the courthouse in the middle and vibrant businesses around the area,” Rydén said. “That was the first eye-catching thing. I am a widower, and the person I married is a widow, and we thought it’d be nice to do something just for us. I always liked driving through Noblesville when traveling to other places, so I downsized my studio and would like to do some work here.”

Now that Rydén and his wife have settled into their home, he wants to work on some commission projects and new sculptures for the communities in and around Noblesville. He is in the process of establishing a gallery in town and has many ideas of places where he would like to showcase his work.

“While I still have the energy and the insight, and I can connect other things that I’ve done that fit right with the community, I’d like to get back on my feet here,” Rydén said. “I was thinking about some of the larger figures I have already created, and I would love to display one on the (Noblesville Bridge of Flowers). Other people are interested in that happening, but nobody’s actually made it happen. My work has to be in a place where people can stop and contemplate it.”

In addition to the Noblesville Bridge of Flowers on the Logan Street pedestrian bridge, the artist also wants to display sculptures somewhere in downtown Noblesville, and hopes his new gallery, with an opening date yet to be confirmed, will help get his art noticed in the city.

Rydén’s love for art began in elementary school, and since then, he has pursued it as a career in several ways.

“Once I started high school, I made the decision to become an artist,” Rydén said. “I have always loved educating myself.”

Ryden attended the University of Wisconsin, where he majored in art and earned a certification in K-12 education. After teaching art for nearly two years, he earned a Master of Fine Arts graduate degree from Kansas University.

“I thought I was going to be a painter,” Rydén said. “When I took ceramics, I thought maybe I could do that. Then, when I took jewelry, I felt excited about it because I could do flatwork that was three dimensional, so I started to do more and more. But then I decided to forget the clasp and chain and have these things stand alone. So, they were miniature sculptures. And at that point, I decided, why don’t I make these bigger?”

Rydén said sculpting naturally became a career. Once he started, he sculpted bronze pieces in his free time. The artist is also proficient in mixed media, and often combines stainless steel, bronze, stone and water to “animate” his pieces.

“Pretty soon, people wanted to buy and collect them,” Rydén said. “But then, when I went to graduate school, I wanted to be a working artist. I returned to Chicago and started showing my work in galleries.”

An opportunity to be an artist-in-residence and professor at the University of Missouri arose. Afterward, Rydén continued teaching and creating art at several universities across the U.S. before giving up teaching and moving to Noblesville.

“I loved working with other people with a passion,” Rydén said. “I tried to help them find themselves — not make them into miniature (versions of myself) or try to take something out of a textbook. I think I can help people find who they really are deep down inside because I went through that, and it was so real.”

When sculpting, Rydén said he considers many things, including whether he knows the area the sculpture will go or whether he is doing it on commission, among other considerations. His larger sculptures can take more than a year to complete.

“If I’m doing commission work, I look at the context,” he said. “If it’s an outdoor public sculpture, I look at the area’s history, present and future. I try to design something that somehow keys off of those things.”

Rydén said his biggest inspiration at the moment is a piece he is sculpting in his garage studio, which he hopes to display somewhere in Noblesville.

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The sculpture Rydén is currently working on in his “Garment of Life” series. (Photo by Jessica Todd)

“I’m finishing a piece that’s been really important to me based on a piece I did called ‘Garment of Life,’” Rydén said. “It is another statement of that project and will probably be named ‘Garment of Life II.’ It integrates man with nature and the cycle we are all part of. The first one I did is down in Charleston, South Carolina.”

Rydén said he wants to be a part of Noblesville “in any way he can be.”

“As an artist with pieces who need homes, I would love to see them placed in my new home.”

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Rydén’s Carl Eskine sculpture. (Photo by Kenneth Rydén)

Rydén’s Favorite Piece

One of Kenneth Rydén’s favorite sculptures is of Carl Erskine, a former Major League Baseball pitcher and Anderson resident who recently died.

“When I was a young boy, my dad gave me a transistor radio, which is when I heard of Carl Erskine for the first time,” Rydén said. “It was one of his career highlight games, and it changed my life because I learned how important it was for someone to give their all to their calling. It taught me I could do something significant.”

Rydén was teaching at Anderson University in Erskine’s hometown when he was asked to create a sculpture of him. The sculpture is at the St. John’s Sports Medicine Facility in Anderson, Ind.

“I just couldn’t believe how full circle everything came in that situation,” Rydén said. “I attended his funeral, and he and his wife became great friends of mine. That’s the reason I love that piece.”