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Advertisement Sculpture Trail depicts Marion's historical landscape
by DJ Kauffman Correspondent · November 22nd, 2017


Native prairie grass, driven by winds in Lowe Park, mirrors Marion's transformative history - it moves about with twists and turns, much like the bison and iron horse. And like the wind, a paved Sculpture Trail pathway winds about the park and behind the Klopfenstein Amphitheater for the Performing Arts.

City of Marion Communications Coordinator Amber Bisinger said as the Arts Council's subcommittee first began looking for sculpture artists, it issued a national call for proposals using an online program known as CAFE (Call for Entry), following the same process that was used to select the art featured in Uptown Artway.

According to Bisinger, the subcommittee has so far commissioned and placed four sculptures strategically along Lowe Park's Sculpture Trail. They are "Liberation" by James Bearden, installed November 2012; "Ascension" by Earle Rock in collaboration with Iowa State University, installed July 2013; and the two newest additions installed this fall, "Disappearing Culture" by J. Aaron Alderman and "Prairie Revival" by Reinaldo Correa.

"With the newest installations, we knew we wanted a prominent piece to appear near the main entrance of the park, so 'Prairie Revival' was selected with that location in mind. 'Disappearing Culture', which features the buffalo and four figures, told such a unique story; we selected that piece and then identified the location within the park," Bisinger said.

Artist and Lecturer Professor in the Department of Architecture at Iowa State University, College of Design, Correa said he originally lived in Puerto Rico, but currently resides with his wife and children in Ames, Iowa, where he teaches "the next generation of designers and artists." He said his inspiration for "Prairie Revival" came from Iowa's deep roots and natural life cycles. He also stated the colorful designed structure makes a beautiful and unique backdrop for creative photography.

"Disappearing Culture"

sculptor J. Aaron Alderman, who traveled from North Carolina to Marion for the event, said he used railroad spikes and anchors when making the incredible one-ton steel buffalo, because he wanted to tie in Marion's rich railroad history in his design. He previously studied at Brevard College in North Carolina and later worked with sculptor Tim Murray and coppersmith J.T. Copper.

Regarding the cost of the sculptures, "Disappearing Culture" was $45,000 and "Prairie Revival" cost $55,000. Both were paid using General Obligation bonds and Local Option Sales Tax revenue. "There will be more pieces added as funds allow," said Bisinger.

In addition to the dedication and ribbon cutting, "Marion was recently honored by the Iowa League of Cities with the All-Star Community Award for the Klopfenstein Amphitheater for the Performing Arts at Lowe Park. The amphitheater is a work of art itself and is situated along the Sculpture Trail," said Bisinger.

The driving force for the Marion Arts Council Sculpture Trail grew out of Imagin8, which was "a community visioning process that kicked off in 2009 to generate ideas that would enhance quality of life and create a strong identity for Marion, and it took extensive planning to bring their vision to life." The park now houses a sports complex with eight ball diamonds and a football/soccer field. "The other half of the park is home to the Arts & Environment Center, a LEED Certified facility that features an art gallery, offices and meeting rooms," said Bisinger.

Furthermore, the Marion Park Board and Marion City Council supported the park's master plan development. "Once the Arts & Environment Center was completed, City leaders identified a need and created the Marion Arts Council to help develop programming and promote the arts locally. And, the Arts Council is responsible for securing the art gallery exhibits, hosting workshops and maintaining the permanent collection on site. They also host a Coffeehouse Night concert series as well as annual Picnic on the Prairie performances," Bisinger added.

In addition, Bisinger said there is "roughly a 2-mile loop trail for walkers, runners and bicyclists. And the area between, is connected by walking trails, established trees and 40 acres of prairie grass."

The George and Alyce Lowe family made a commitment in 1999 to donate 180 acres of farmland to the City of Marion to be used as a park for all citizens. It was then valued at over $1.5 million and has become Marion's largest park, where both culture and nature reside in harmony, Bisinger said. "Thousands of residents and visitors visit the park each year ... and the public's response has been outstanding."

Park patrons "enjoy the natural surroundings, tend to their garden plots, attend meetings and events, enjoy sunrise yoga, or take in concerts, movie nights or other performances. The enhanced programming and unique ambience the venue provides have transitioned it from a best-kept secret to one of Marion's crown jewels," she added.

For more information about Lowe Park and upcoming programs, visit cityofmarion.org and cityofmarion.org/ArtsCouncil.
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