Students on the Franklin Mayor's Youth Leadership Council met with public artist Arlon Bayliss in January to discuss the design process for a statue at a roundabout near Franklin Community High School.


A group of young leaders are ready to fundraise for a Grizzly Cub-themed tulip tree statue planned at the roundabout to be built at the entrance to Franklin Community High School.

The Franklin Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council has been working on the project since last school year and have timed the project to be added to the planned roundabout at the intersection of Cumberland Drive, Simon Road and Commerce Drive during construction this summer. The council decided to piggyback off the city’s project by adding a sculpture to beautify their school and create a new western gateway into the city.

The roundabout will cost $1.6 million, including $300,000 for the sculpture. The funds will cover the student’s work with Bayliss as well as the fabrication process, to be completed by Beech Grove-based metal fabricator bo-mar Industries. The Franklin Board of Public Works and Safety approved the project and contracts with Bayliss and bo-mar during at the board’s Monday meeting.

Any funds the students aren’t able to raise through corporate sponsorship of the project will be covered by money from the city of Franklin, said Mayor Steve Barnett.

Although the final design may stray from the renderings, initial images show a metal tulip tree with holes in it. The holes will likely be carved into the shape of various Franklin symbols, such as a key and kite to represent Benjamin Franklin and a bear to represent the Franklin High School Grizzly Cub mascot, said Mia Tisdale, the council’s treasurer who came up with the first sketch for the roundabout statue.

“As a council, we decided we wanted to hear the thoughts of the school as we wanted to tackle this project, to submit digital creations of what we would like to see in this sculpture,” Tisdale said. “With all their ideas I compiled it into the first sketch.”

That first sketch included multiple bears standing around a tree with a kite in it, but that design wouldn’t be able to withstand high wind speeds, Barnett said. The students worked with Bayliss to come up with the design of a tree with symbols carved out of it to solve that dilemma, Barnett said.

After coming up with a design proposal at the end of the 2021-22 school year, the council met with Bayliss in January for a brainstorming session, during which they introduced themselves to him and cut out shapes from pieces of paper. With the project and contracts approved, the next steps will include finalizing a design and taking that design to bo-mar Industries, where students will observe the fabrication process. The goal is to have the sculpture on the roundabout by July 31, just before the start of the school year, said Maggie Woods, the council’s president.

“I think it’s really just about having a symbol for the community and everything the council works for, representing not just the schools, but our community,” Woods said. “I think the council wants it to serve as a reminder when entering the high school of everything Franklin is about.”

Barnett, along with Tara Payne, his chief of staff, has worked closely with the students throughout the process.

“I helped guide them through the process, how to start the project from the very beginning to the very end,” Payne said. “Part of the planning was public input from students at their school and they will fundraise for this as well. They will go to the Rotary Club and Duke Energy to get sponsorships for the project.”

One of the most exciting aspects of the project will be going to Beech Grove and watching the statue being made, she said.

“We will go to the plant where everything is built. They will have aluminum and steel pieces, colors, lights. They will bend the metal and they really have state-of-the-art equipment,” Payne said. “Some of the pieces will be cut with a water precision laser. It’s really cool.”

In order to get to the fabrication process, Bayliss will first finalize the design by continuing his meetings with the council. Bayliss, originally from England, is known for his public artwork in Indiana, including the “Light, Words, Life” installation at the Indianapolis Central Library, “Between Infinite Stars,” for the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, “Flight Wave” at Indianapolis International Airport and “Kawaakari: River of Light,” a 400-foot-long aerial sculpture at the Circle Center Mall Dining Pavilion, according to his artist biography.

He previously worked with Speedway High School on the “Seeds of Light” outdoor sculpture in 2016. Bayliss is most looking forward to helping students create something that will last for years to come, he said.

“It’s fulfilling and enjoyable and I can take them to the factory and show them the machines as they cut the metal. They’re learning how the factory takes an idea and develops something special,” Bayliss said. “I would like the artwork to be understood by a wide range of people, as well as kids, and to be something that is of a national standard that can be compared with artworks in Chicago and other major cities.”

The roundabout is set to start construction after school lets out for the summer, with construction to be over by next school year, Barnett said.

This is just the latest project for the youth leadership council. In recent years they’ve installed a baby box at a Franklin fire station, provided relief for Afghan refugees, painted electrical boxes downtown and helped fund an inclusive playground at Blue Herron Park.