“It looks good from far away,” James Bearden said. “It’s meant to be seen from far away. The idea that it breaks up the landscape is so graphic.”
Bearden stood among a small group Monday afternoon at Marion’s Lowe Park, looking at an arrangement of folded steel planes about eight feet tall, painted bright yellow and mounted on a low concrete pedestal along what’s now the park’s north border.
The piece, “Liberation,” is the fourth addition to Lowe Park’s sculpture walk. Artist Bearden joined city officials and members of the Marion Arts Council to inspect the installation and hold a brief dedication ceremony for the work.
Some heavy landscaping continues along a fenced-off section of the trail. But the Children’s Discovery Garden is accessible. The park’s Arts and Environment Center gallery, 4500 N. 10th St., now hosting works by Mount Vernon artists Sue Coleman and Marty Mitchell, will be open 1 to 3 p.m. today.
Plans call for 10 installations over the next year as the walk reaches its full length of about a mile, said Bob North, a member of the Marion Arts Commission. The commission selects and commissions works for the trail, funded by $65,000 in local-option sales tax revenue.
“We have plans for the next couple of years,” North said. “As the community grows north, Lowe Park will be the central park of Marion. It’s going to be family friendly, arts friendly.”
The trail will wind behind the park’s amphitheater when it’s built next year. Supporters are raising the last $200,000 of the amphitheater’s $1.7 million estimated cost.
Arts council chairman Dennis Frevert said the council will probably launch its own fundraising campaign to fund future installations.
“There’s probably going to have to be some more expensive ones near the amphitheater,” Frevert said.
The trail’s landscaping will include more than one pond and plantings of native prairie grass and wildflowers. The sculptures also will get identification plaques.
“Liberation” swayed gently in the breeze, something Bearden expected.
“I have an extra weld in there, so it should be good,” he said, pointing to the base. “If it gets really windy, it’s really going to get going. It looks like it’s balancing on one point, doesn’t it?”
“I like it,” said Mayor Allen “Snooks” Bouska. “It’s bent. I like that. It’s got an airfoil effect. That’s enough for me.”
Bouska said the park is a fitting monument to George and Alyce Lowe, who donated 180 acres of their farm to the city in 2000. George Lowe died in 2002.
“You have the full support of the city council on everything you do out here,” Bouska told members of the arts council.
“It’s going to be perfect,” said Marcie Wright, the former arts council chairwoman. Frevert credited her with the idea for the arts trail.
“We always visit the museums and the sculpture parks” when traveling, Wright said. “We had all this land, and we thought, what could be better?”
Bearden, 48, a Des Moines native, was on his way home after five days installing his work in a Madison, Wis., museum. A working artist for eight years, he said he’s placed outdoor works in Urbandale, Clive, and Minneapolis over the past two years.
“I’ve finally got a portfolio that I can send out for bigger pieces,” he said.
“And when James Bearden is a famous artist we’ll have one of his pieces here,” Frevert said.
“That’s my plan, anyway,” Bearden said, happily.