Art at the Park

by Peter Longley

Several local artists are now featured in our growing collection of art at the Springfield-Greene County Botanical Center and Gardens. Our latest addition is a fine wood carving Praying Mantis by Jim Stewart of The Sculptured Gourd.

Jim’s giant sculpture was created out of one log that includes the fine details of antennae and legs. The Praying Mantis is captured sitting among lily blooms also carved from wood. The piece is exhibited in the Atrium at the Botanical Center and is quite a talking point. Jim Stewart is retired and at sixty-five years young has loved creating from mediums all his life. He had no formal training, but obviously has a great eye for detail. As he says: “The good Lord blessed me with natural talents and skills. I carve, paint—watercolor and pastel, create gourd lifelike pieces as well as vases, pitchers, bowls and centerpieces, plus much more.” He also custom builds furniture and repairs antique items. He is a juried member of The Sculptured Gourd in two categories: Wood and Specialty. Examples of his other work can be found at www.bestofmissourihands.com/sculpturedgourd.htm#S

 

 

The Praying Mantis is one of Jim Stewart’s largest pieces and he has donated the work to the Springfield-Greene County Botanical Center. He is himself a keen gardener with a beautiful yard that features landscaping, trees, flowers and a large water feature with a pond and waterfall. These and the fauna they foster, become the inspiration for much of his artwork. We are proud to feature his work at the Botanical Center and for the moment we have named the mantis ‘Solomon’ after the wise Ancient Israelite king who prayed in the garden.

The Atrium at the Botanical Center also features the magnificent stained glass window designed and executed by local artist Robin Coulter Crabb. Many churches in Springfield feature her work, but the stained glass creation across the entire south window of the Botanical Center Atrium is probably her most original work. It features many aspects of the park—a lake, willow trees, dragonflies, hummingbirds, and most important of all the life cycle of the butterfly—butterflies being a very important part of our focus in the gardens. It takes a while to take in all the aspects of this fascinating and very beautiful piece of art. Look carefully and you will find a caterpillar, along with Monarch and Tiger Swallowtail butterflies, and those aforementioned dragonflies and hummingbirds. Robin Coulter Crabb is the owner of Robin’s Nest Stained Glass, LLC and her work can be located at www.robinsneststainedglass.com

James Hall III designed and sculpted four of our bronze statues in Close Memorial Park. They are all very lifelike and a wonderful addition to our outdoors. The first is in the White Garden and features Major Close complete with his signature soft hat, kneeling with a trowel in his hand while weeding in the garden that was his brainchild. Overlooking Drummond Lake beyond the Hosta Garden is a sculpted statue of Major Close’s mother-in-law, Anne Drummond, who did much for Springfield. The image of her reading a book, appropriate as the Springfield Libraries were a major inspiration for her, is so real that people have been known to place capes around her shoulders to keep her warm! It is appropriate that she is looking out over the lake as it was decided to name the restored lake after her and her family. On a pedestal in the center of the Butterfly Garden is a bronze of a young girl with butterflies alighting on her hair, outstretched hand, and back. This is a statue of great beauty, but it is also educational, explaining why butterflies like to land on us during the warm summer months. They enjoy the salt that they find in our perspiration! Finally, we return to the Botanical Center Atrium where our donor board, itself a work of art created in collaboration with Jeffery Brundege, features James Hall III’s excellent portraits in bronze of the wonderful Springfield couple, who have been instrumental in bringing their dream to reality in the Botanical Center and our Gardens—Marthe and Major Close.

James Hall III is the owner of JH Creative LLC and is a graduate from Missouri State University with a BFA in three-dimensional design. He has worked in the visual merchandising industry in addition to designing art pieces for public and private collections. James spent ten years fabricating models for natural history and environmental science exhibits all over the world. His diorama model work can be seen in Canada, Egypt, the UK, Germany, and the US. James Hall III lives in Springfield, Missouri and further information on his work can be found at http://www.jhcreative.org/vp/Hsbve/home.html

Finally, I come to the two bronze statues of children at play set in the grass in front of the Botanical Center building. We hope the third in this series that was damaged two years ago will eventually join them. They are a delight and show how important play is in a public park. This can be taken further if we consider the playpods of ‘Playcore’ part of our ‘Art in the Park.’ They include the magnificent ‘Metamorphosis of the Monarch Butterfly’ that was inspired by our Botanical Center Program Coordinator Katie Steinhoff. Playpod sculptures featuring ‘Leaves’, ‘Climbing Trees’, ‘Mushrooms’ and a ‘Dragonfly’ are also dotted around the park.

Peter Longley
Horticultural Interpreter
Springfield-Greene County Botanical Center and Gardens