The otherworldly growths sprout from beside one of Greenwood’s most popular trails, seeming to sway and shimmy in the breeze.
Not far away, a massive “V” with a circle inside symbolizes the triumph over mental illness and depression. An iron and steel post tapers near the top, as celestial shapes burst into the sky.
A carefully plotted bevy of shapes stand out from the pastoral landscape in stunning bright blue.
The Polk Hill Trail in Greenwood has gotten an artistic makeover this year. Through the city’s Art on the Trail program, four new public works of art have been added to the walkway, which stretches from Craig Park east down Smith Valley Road. The four chosen sculptures were “Triumph” by Ben Pierce of Cape Girardeau, Missouri; “Sea-Saw” by Robert Craig of Des Moines, Iowa; “Nature’s Quintet” by Stephanie Sailer of Kingston, Illinois; and “Vase” by Steven Maeck of Burr Oak, Iowa.
For the next two years, walkers, runners and cyclists can bask in the creativity and imagination of the participating artists, while enjoying Greenwood’s most family-friendly amenities.
“Their art adds an aesthetically appealing experience to our city’s network of trails, and the Polk Hill Trail is a prime example of beautification efforts that we want to continue throughout Greenwood,” Greenwood mayor Mark Myers said.
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 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.
After two years, new artwork is installed along the trail. The only permanent piece 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.
Another sculpture from the previous round of Art on the Trail, “Pod Stop,” by Greg Mueller, was donated to the city and will remain on display at a new location, to be announced in the near future.
Organizers of the art trail advertised requests for submissions across the country. A juried panel comprised of local artists including members of the Greater Greenwood Arts Council, Southside Arts League, and Arts Council of Indianapolis, as well as a Greenwood Parks and Recreation Department staff member, picked the four best.
Pierce is a military veteran and artist who uses a minimalist approach and mindfulness of negative space to create unique sculptures. He is influenced by nature and architecture, taking those inspirations to construct simple geometric forms that capture the viewer’s interest and stir their emotions, according to the artist’s website.
“Triumph” was created as a way to bring awareness of depression and mental illness.
“A lot of mental illness is suffered in silence — I am choosing to use my art as a way to help others speak up. Maybe someone will hear about this or read this and feel HOPE. You are not alone,” Pierce wrote in an artist’s statement installed with the sculpture.
Craig created “Sea-Saw” as a contemplation of mechanical function, human interaction, guidance and movement. His large-scale sculptures have been exhibited in museums, universities, and sculpture parks across the country.
“Discrete, identifiable objects are re-imagined, combined and transformed into something that can’t be readily named while some representational sense of the origins of the abstraction are retained,” Craig wrote in his statement with the sculpture.
Sailer, an academic advisor at Northern Illinois University School of Art and Design, focuses on organic forms that evolve from an imaginative interpretation of nature, particularly of seed pods.
“Nature’s Quintet” features metal growths based on the columbine flower, a species that is native to the Midwest, including Indiana.
“The harmonious relationship between each petal mirrors the delicate movement of dance or music, each part positioned in tandem with the others,” Sailer said in an artist statement.
“Vase” is created out of previously used metal, which Maeck worked to resemble original base materials.
“The focus of my recent work has been almost exclusively in the utilization of industrial salvage which I alter and recombine in a manner that is not only resonant and original but manifests the aura of having been created from base raw material, i.e. cast bronze,” Maeck wrote in his artist statement. “Of course, there is, and should be, a subliminal sense of processed heritage of the metal.”
The four new sculptures will be up along Polk Hill Trail until 2023.
In addition to the new artwork along the trailway, Greenwood’s parks officials planned new benches and trash receptacles along the trail.
“Between the new artwork and trail amenities, we are eager for Greenwood residents to experience these changes and create new memories within this section of the city’s trail network,” Greenwood Parks and Recreation director Rob Taggart said.