While most projects focus on recruiting professional artists to create their vision of whatever sculpture that community designs, Nebraska City’s public art project brought the process into the classroom.
Since the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, teaching artist Liz Shea-McCoy of Lincoln, who serves as Project Coordinator for An Enchanted Arboretum, has visited with more than 1,000 Nebraska City students. Shea-McCoy worked with elementary school teachers and art teachers at Nebraska City Public Schools, Lourdes Central Catholic Schools, and the Nebraska Center for the Education of Children who are Blind or Visually Impaired, to help the students learn about art.
Each student created their own design of An Enchanted Arboretum maquette. The maquettes, measuring only twelve inches in height, were mini-replicas of the six-foot stylized tree forms presented to the participating professional artists. One student from each classroom was chosen to have their maquette design replicated onto a four-foot tree. At Saturday’s Grand Unveiling, those students and the professional artists were on hand to present their works to the public.
The trees are made of fiber-reinforced urethane manufactured by Icon Poly of Gibbon, Nebraska. Kyle Vohland of Icon Poly, and his family, drove the nearly three hours from Gibbon to Nebraska City on Saturday to see the Unveiling.
“The first thing we saw when we pulled up was 200 to 300 people milling around,” Vohland said. “We’ve been to several unveilings before, but nothing like this.”
Vohland said Icon Poly customizes three-dimensional shapes for various art projects around the United States, but the student aspect of An Enchanted Arboretum was unique to them.
“We’ve been telling our clients about Nebraska City’s project and now we have a town in Massachusetts and another one in Ohio who are planning to do something similar,” Vohland said.
Last fall, professional artists from around the region submitted their own 12-inch maquette featuring their suggested design, to be juried for project selection. Of the 55 designs entered, 21 were chosen. Artist Sharon Cech of Omaha was one of the selected artists.
“This is great!” said Cech, a Nebraska City native. “I spent my childhood climbing trees in Arbor Lodge. When I heard about this project, I knew I had to do it.”
All the trees will be displayed in Nebraska City until late September 2013. The six-foot trees done by professional artists and high school students will be mounted on concrete bases and set into the ground in public outdoor places. The rest of the trees, all four-feet tall and designed by students, will be displayed at various businesses throughout the community. A map of all the locations can be found online here or at Nebraska City Tourism & Commerce. In September, all the trees will be auctioned off at a public event. The six-foot trees are required to stay on display in Nebraska City following the auction; plaques will note individual sponsors.
An Enchanted Arboretum is funded by grants from: The Paul, John, Anton & Doris Wirth Foundation; the Karl H. & Wealtha H. Nelson Family Foundation; the Kropp Charitable Foundation, Inc.; the City of Nebraska City (LB840 Funds); Rotary Club No. 2090; and United Way of Nebraska City.