One of the busiest roads in Greenwood, and the most popular stretch of walking trails, has a new look this summer.
A 200-pound steel arrow squiggles its way toward the ground. Alien plants throw off yellow-tinted shade from its unnatural canopy. A metal cacophony of shapes could be a face, a fish or a bird, depending on how you look at it.
And every night, twin pillars of light speak to revitalization.
Four new sculptures have been added to the Polk Hill Trail along Smith Valley Road as part of the city’s Art on the Trailway program. The public art collection has been solicited from artists throughout the country, and their work is estimated to be seen by more than 18,000 people every day.
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“Public art is very important. Anywhere we can get art out so people can see it, even if it’s casually walking by, it’s going to be an education for people,” said Maureen Bergquist Gray, whose piece “Figure” is now on the trail. “Public art broadens people’s perspectives.”
Art on the Trailway has been in place since 2012. Every two years, new sculptures from regional and national artists are leased and installed along a stretch of trail east of Craig Park.
The only permanent piece on the trail is “Strider II,” an imposing sculpture depicting a lean figure walking into the wind. Greenwood purchased the piece after it was included in the first round of the trailway program.
The idea for the art trail came from Rob Taggart, director of Greenwood Parks and Recreation. He worked with the Greater Greenwood Arts Council to come up with a plan to attract finished artwork from throughout the country to install in Greenwood.
Submitted sculptures are juried by a committee that looks at durability in the outdoors, relevance to the history and culture of the city and size and scope.
For the first time, four sculptures were included in the program. For the first two rounds, funding only allowed for three to be placed along the trail. But as efforts to promote the arts in Greenwood have been successful, the program was expanded.
This will be second time Indianapolis-based artist Quincy Owens has art on the trailway.
He and fellow artist Luke Crawley submitted their piece “Prime Commonality,” which uses light to comment on themes such as revitalization and the building blocks of life.
The sculptures had originally been installed on the Atlanta BeltLine, a former railway loop that has been redeveloped as a multi-use trail. The idea was to create a sculpture that referenced the Fire of 1917 in Atlanta, which burned for over 10 hours and destroyed nearly 1,900 buildings.
After the installation was through, Owens and Crawley applied for the Art on the Trailway program. Owens is a Greenwood-area resident, and had been impressed with the project so close to his home.
“The local tie is an awesome thing. A lot of times cities don’t think they have creatives living there, but they do. You just have to invite them out to play,” Owens said.
But the trailway program’s reach is nationwide. Florida-based artist Richard Herzog received the call-out for submissions, and felt that his creations blending nature and technology were ideal for a trail setting.
His sculpture, “Symbiosis,” elicits a different response outdoors than it would mounted in a gallery setting.
“People see it in a completely different context — they come across it, rather than going to see it,” Herzog said. “People can see it, and sometimes people need to see it a couple of times to connect with it.”
Public art such as the Art on the Trailway pieces also create a more physical connection with the viewer, Gray said.
She had worked for 40 years in stone sculpture before transitioning to metal. Despite what people think of art in a museum setting, she has always encouraged people to get up close and interact with her work.
“People can touch it. When I’m in a gallery setting, I encourage people to touch them. It’s an experience, you want to experience more than with your eyes,” Gray said.