Ohio University has many easily recognizable locations, including the Convocation Center, Alden Library and Baker Center. If a new art group has its way, Wolfe Garden will be added to the list.
Often overlooked, Wolfe Garden is located on College Green, between Alden Library and Cutler Hall. Its most prominent feature is “The American Woman,” a bronze sculpture by the late David Hostetler.
The sculpture has earned Wolfe Garden a listing on the Ohio Art Corridor, a project that showcases outdoor art in the Appalachian area of Ohio. Officially launched on Oct. 30, the project seeks to revitalize the economy of the region with Appalachian art and culture.
The corridor extends 144 miles through Athens, Morgan, Fairfield, Muskingum and Pickaway counties. It currently consists of eight sculptures and two large murals, and organizers hope to add new works.
“I love the idea… Public art is wonderful,” said Athens Mayor Steve Patterson, who also revealed development of a sculpture park on city land adjacent to the old Athens Armory. The park has been built by city workers but so far no sculptures have been installed.
He mentioned other sculpture site possibilities, too, but conceded that obtaining funding is uncertain.
“The city is exploring various sources for public art funding,” he said, noting he has attended Ohio Art Corridor meetings and even hosted one here in Athens at Arts West.
Rebekah Griesmyer, executive director of the Ohio Art Corridor, has been working with the Athens County Convention & Visitors Bureau to gather more information on other outdoor art in the area.
“We would love to see a giant art sculpture on the stretch between Athens and Burr Oak (State Park),” Griesmyer said. “We are attempting to draw people to small cities and towns with outdoor art. It is a huge project, and we couldn’t be more excited to see it implemented and adopted by cities like Athens.”
The Ohio Art Corridor – a non-profit organization – is the brainchild of David Griesmyer, Rebekah’s brother-in-law. He has said he was inspired by memories of youthful family travels with stops at roadside attractions that featured big objects – the largest rocking chair and the biggest rubber-band ball, for example.
David Griesmyer created and donated the first large sculpture. “The School of Fish” is located in McConnelsville in Morgan County.
In order to be included on a Corridor map, the art must meet three criteria. It must be outdoors and free; it must be large; and if the art is not large (over 12 feet) as one piece, it must consist of three sculptures in one place.
(Wolfe Garden and the Hostetler piece on College Green were selected before the criteria were established.)
According to the Ohio Art Corridor, “Our mission is to provide Appalachia access to culture, art, (and) educational experiences while supporting and increasing tourism and revenue.”
The group’s listed goals include providing families an opportunity to go on a drive in order to experience beauty, art and culture firsthand.
“We want people to leave the big cities and come explore the beauty that southeastern Ohio has to offer,” according to a mission statement. “We have goals to partner with the public schools in the towns where the new sculptures will go. We want children to aspire to greatness by being part of this incredible legacy project.”
David Griesmyer, 40, operates a metal fabrication business in Malta, across the Muskingum River from McConnelsville. Creation of the Corridor combines his love of art with a desire to bring new life to the region.
“This part of Ohio is so rich with beauty, talent and creativity,” he said. “I see southeast Ohio as a large stone ready to be carved, only to reveal a masterpiece hidden within. Southeast Ohio is just that, a hidden masterpiece ready to be unveiled.”
He’s hoping the initial art trail – which now includes the sculpture in McConnelsville, three stops in downtown Lancaster, two in Circleville, two in Zanesville and one in Athens – will expand by 10 additional installations over the next few years. The vision is to eventually grow the Corridor to cover 230 miles, which would make it the largest outdoor art gallery in the world, according to Griesmyer.
His contribution – three massive metal fish – spans a total of 90 feet and each is 15 feet high. The sculpture is just off Ohio Rt. 376 near the Morgan County Fairgrounds.
The Ohio Art Corridor has partnered with three state entities – the Ohio Department of Transportation, the governor’s office, and the Office of Tourism. Officials from cities, towns and villages throughout the Appalachian region are also part of the effort.
“I understand the value of public art when it comes to tourism,” Mayor Patterson said. “Hometown pride; it’s cool.”