Feature Article - September 2002
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Art Works

Adding interest, character and beauty to blank walls and barren spaces

By Stacy St. Clair

The Dublin Arts Council, a not-for-profit agency that oversees public art projects such as the recreation center sculptures, insisted the pieces incorporate the town's history. Artists who applied for the job knew their work had to be more than aesthetically pleasing—it had to be relevant to the burgeoning suburb as well.

"It either has to relate to Dublin as it is today or how it was in the past," says Christie Rosenthal, executive director of the Dublin Arts Council. "We feel it's really important because it gives the community an opportunity to connect with the project."

The Dublin's public art project began 1989, when the arts council formed a partnership with the city. The municipality, which oversees the town's recreation department, agreed to earmark 25 percent of its motel taxes to the endeavor. The council, in turn, agreed to oversee the annual selection process and its creation.

The council initially earmarked $70,000 annually for a new piece. The amount, however, has increased to $125,000 as the costs of materials—as well as residents' expectations—have risen.

Once a piece is finished and dedicated, the council turns control back to the city. The municipality then has the responsibility for maintaining the piece.

"We really have a wonderful deal with the city," Rosenthal says.

The art, however, does not just give an added boost to indoor décors, such as the relief sculptures in the recreation center. The community has used the endeavor to give face-lifts to their outdoor parks as well.

In fact, Dublin's first public piece was dedicated in Scotio Park. The statue "Leatherlips" is a 12-foot limestone bust of the famous Wyandot Indian Chief. Local legend contends fellow tribesman near the park executed Leatherlips because he refused to fight Dublin's white settlers.

The most recent addition was a whimsical baseball-themed sculpture at Darree Fields, a 66-acre park filled with baseball diamonds and soccer fields. The piece—made of aluminum, bronze and stainless steel—features a baseball bat smashing an old-fashioned alarm clock from a mock home plate over the centerfield wall. The clock appears to fly more than 300 feet over the field, hitting a series of metal disks with the words "going" stamped on them.

The final disk has the word "gone" on it and looks as if the clock passed through it before sailing out of the park. "Gone" sits atop a gate that leads visitors to an adjoining wooden trial. More clocks and baseball items—many of them partially deteriorated—appear along the trail.

The artist intended the project to give onlookers a sense of how fleeting time is, especially as parents. It's a subtle reminder of how quickly Little Leaguers grow up and find more adult pursuits.

Coral Cove in Carol Stream, Ill., sports a colorful tropical theme.

"Primarily the people who will view it are the kids who come to play baseball or soccer and their parents," Oregon artist Don Merkt told a local newspaper shortly before its dedication. "I think kids will get the 'going, going, gone‚' and I think the adults will understand the time theme. Perhaps the kids will, too; I think they can."

Perhaps the greatest artistic nod to Dublin's recreation history is its Jack Nicklaus Tribute. Created by two Chicago artists, the larger-than-life bronze statues depicted a middle-aged Nicklaus crouching next to a young golfer. The Golden Bear points off into the distance with a smile on his face. The sculpture was unveiled shortly before the 1998 Solheim Cup, a biennial match similar to Ryder Cup that pits American women golfers against their European counterparts.

The piece is meant to honor the golfing legend for his contributions to both his sport and Dublin. In the early 1970s, Nicklaus and his business partners developed the Murfield Village Golf Club and residential neighborhoods, one of the country's first golf-course communities. The project is universally credited with transforming Dublin from a sleepy farm community of 1,000 people to today's bustling suburb with 22,000 residents.

The city's visitors and convention bureau publicizes the statue—along with all public art projects—on its Web site and in its tourist brochures. The pieces are listed as just one more reason to use the area's top-notch recreational facilities.

"These projects have created tourism," Rosenthal says. "We know that for sure."

And it's not just art lovers who enjoy the sculptures at Dublin's recreational facilities. The sports-minded patrons who use the parks and recreation center find themselves inadvertently taking in culture, too.

"People who would never look at art are enjoying it," Rosenthal says. "The community has a real connection to the projects."