Published August 8, 2012 in Nebraska City Newspress. Article by Dan Swanson.
11/10/12 - Please note that the final form WILL NOT BE MADE IN STEEL. The Enchanted Arboretum planning committee is working with Icon Poly of Gibbon, NE to manufacture a cast fiber-reinforced urethane tree.

As we have seen a multitude of Public Art Projects pop up in cities all over the United States and the world, it is evident that their popularity is derived from the way they promote excitement, display artistic expression, build a feeling of community, and heighten awareness as well as support of the arts.

We have seen fiberglass cows in New York, Chicago, and Kansas City, elephants and donkeys in Washington, D.C., the J.Does in Omaha, and steel bikes in our own state capital's Tour de Lincoln. Most recently, Nebraska City has chosen a tree for the concept of its premier public art project titled “An Enchanted Arboretum.”

Most living forms have been constructed of fiberglass; however, the material selected for An Enchanted Arboretum will be steel. In fact, beginning in the Spring of 2013, Nebraska City will sprout a new kind of forest as 25 six-foot trees, designed by art professionals and a select number of high school students and almost 40 four-foot trees, designed by Nebraska City public and parochial school students, will appear and promote Nebraska City - Where Great Ideas Grow. Like the mission of the Arbor Day Foundation, this project will certainly inspire people to celebrate trees!!

The project is being headed by Arts Are Basic, a partner program of Doane College. Arts Are Basic, an Aesthetic Education program, was formed in 1989 to help teachers keep their classrooms alive with the arts and to provide different ways to engage students using kinesthetic, visual-spatial and creative thinking. Arts Are Basic Executive Director, Rhea Gill, has enlisted Master Teaching Artist Liz Shea-McCoy as the Project Coordinator. Shea-McCoy will oversee the community programming. In addition, she will be working with Nebraska City schools and the teachers
whose students will be participating as artists, recreating their 4-foot trees into magnificent works of art as they study and are inspired by the creative styles of well-known artists. Shea-McCoy directed and was a participating artist in Tour de Lincoln, which prepared her to lead a number of other exciting public art projects in Lincoln.

As a visual teaching artist, Liz will visit each classroom three times throughout the school year, working with Nebraska City students and supporting their educators as they move forward to learn about Public Art Projects and ways to influence and creatively encourage their students throughout the design process.

Shea-McCoy has been working together with a Committee of key individuals from Nebraska City who represent the Arbor Day Foundation, city and school officials, Nebraska City Tourism and Commerce, Nebraska City Economic Development Corporation and other citizens of Nebraska City. Together, they have worked out many of the details of the project including selecting the tree image created by Shea-McCoy. "I love Public Art Projects and have seen, firsthand, the many benefits they offer cities that have the energy and enthusiasm to take on such a magnificent, imaginative and resourceful undertaking," commented Shea-McCoy. A great deal has been accomplished in the
planning; however, there is more work ahead as much of what is being accomplished is truly "a work in progress."
In 2010, a series of meetings was initiated in order to develop a comprehensive community vision, brand, and plan for Nebraska City’s community economic development.  We called it the “Arbor City initiative" at the suggestion of economic development consultant, John Rhodes.  Rhodes suggested Nebraska City would benefit from exploiting its relationship with the Arbor Day Foundation and Arbor Day Farm. The general idea was that if Nebraska City capitalized on and enhanced its most defining characteristics those which distinguish our town from all others, a community brand could be developed that would bolster our economic development. The brand, once adopted and utilized throughout the community would make the job of promoting Nebraska City to current and new residents and businesses much easier. 

Early on it was decided the initiative would not take the form of a formal organization.  Instead, volunteer committees, work groups, existing community organizations, and most importantly, private citizens, would come together to agree upon a common vision, establish priorities, and communicate progress toward achieving the prioritized goals to improve Nebraska City. 

This community art project, known now as “An Enchanted Arboretum,” was selected as the top priority with input from the community by the initiative. Now with financial support from community foundations and local civic organizations, the initiative takes the next steps forward to welcome professional and emerging artists to take part in creating an artful forest in the hometown of J. Sterling Morton, the founder of Arbor Day. In the end, 25 six-foot art trees add to the splendor that is Nebraska City.