UCA art students place public art in community

UCA art students have transformed the Tucker Creek Walking and Bike Trail into a place where public art is displayed for all to see. A number of the pieces are subtle, and others stand out beneath trail-goers feet.

The project was originated and implemented by Dr. Gayle Seymour, professor of art history, and her senior art class. ?The art projects were designed to give people a sense of delight in being in this space and to take sculpture off a pedestal and allow it to be interactive,? Seymour said. ?Having artwork on the trail for everyone to enjoy makes it less threatening and more accessible.?

Much of the public art of the 20th century was created in order to provoke a response out of people and to be controversial. One of the aims of contemporary public art is to connect art to the place and the people. Now, she says, people are going the opposite direction and trying to create public art that is functional and inspires people.

?I regularly teach senior seminar with a public art theme. These students should have the chance to create public art. It provides a way to feature their skills. The project was a way to improve their research skills, art making and community service,? she said.

Seymour continued, ?I spent nearly all of last summer at Tucker Creek and decided it was the perfect place for public art in Conway. It was an easy place to decide on because it?s close to school and the public who uses it is rather specific. I also figured students would be interested in a natural place.?

To understand what kind of artwork was desired at Tucker Creek, the students created a survey about the site and interviewed people who frequent the trail. Students designed the artwork based on the answers they received.

The projects along the trail include botanical stepping-stones, wind chimes located in trees along the trail and painted footprints of animals in the area. One of the projects includes the Tucker Creek Trail sign, which gives information about the art pieces and their locations as well as a history of the creek. The sign also provides little known information about the creek?s namesake, Daniel Franklin ?Frank? Tucker.

Senior Monica Steinberg?s group created a hopscotch mosaic consisting of more than 1,000 hand-cut tiles. Its tile boarder is made from the drawings of fifth-grade students at Marguerite Vann Elementary School. Steinberg said, ?Hopscotch is a great piece of public art because it transcends time. Old and young can both enjoy this nostalgic game.?

Some of the most popular projects on the trail include:

? Tucker Creek Chess Table ? Designed to give people a chance to rest and relax after a workout. The table is made from sheet steel and is one of the largest projects on the trail. People can bring their own chess pieces or improvise with rocks or leaves

? Hidden Animals ? Eleven animal silhouettes, made of painted sheet steel, invite the viewer to participate in a hide-and-seek game with the hidden wildlife. The concealed animals identify some of the species indigenous to the trail as well as animals brought to the site.

Senior Lina Brown, who worked on the hidden animals project, said the project was a lot more time consuming than she had imagined. ?I learned an incredible amount and had a good time working on it,? Brown said. ?I also hope that this project could be the start of more public art. I hope it could be a catalyst for other groups to become motivated.?

Seymour and her students worked on the project with the city of Conway and are extremely grateful for the help and encouragement provided. ?The Parks and Recreation Department was very open to new ideas and supplied us with many man-hours that we needed for the installation of the art projects. They?ve been great,? she said.

The formal opening celebration of the project is scheduled for Feb. 26 at 1:30 p.m. at the pavilion at the Salem Road entrance. The public is invited to attend.

-Jessica Saylor