VANDALIA – The long-envisioned Vandalia Art Park was formally dedicated Saturday afternoon as dozens gathered on a hot, muggy afternoon.
The eight-acre park is adjacent to the Vandalia-Butler Historical Society Grounds on East Alkaline Springs Road directly across from the main entrance of Butler High School. It features two mosaic totems at its entrance, a gravel pathway, seven free-standing sculptures called “Art Parked,” along with several historical photos of Vandalia along the path.
“The backbone of the park is the walking path,” said Vandalia Vice Mayor Candice Farst said. “We created a meandering pathway to open up access to all areas of the park and we plan to host various exhibits and activities on an ongoing basis.”
Farst has been the driving force behind the park since its inception.
The park, formerly named Lichtenfels Park, was the product of several years of dreaming, brainstorming, and, finally, planning and construction.
Mayor Arlene Setzer said that the city and its leaders were wise in waiting for the right project for the park.
“Originally, the park was named Lichtenfels Park because Sister Cities planned to build a chalet here and hold their Oktoberfest here,” said Setzer. “However, there are some issues with this property in getting utilities here and the fundraising never materialized so it sat vacant. I’m very happy that councils through the years were patient and left the park vacant and waited for the right project.”
Setzer praised the efforts of Farst for spearheading the project in her roles as liaison to the City’s art committees, emphasized the planning and foresight by the Vandalia Parks and Recreation Department and its Parks Advisory Board, the Public Art in Vandalia Committee and the Vandalia Cultural Arts Committee.
“Without Candy’s hard work, and some pushing and prodding along the way, this would not have happened,” said Setzer.
Farst became emotional after Setzer’s introduction during the ceremony.
“When I think about it, it doesn’t seem like a long time,” said Farst referring to the number of years spent in planning. “But it took time in talking and getting people on board and accustomed to the idea. I think once they see it, it’s such a positive thing.”
City Councilman Dave Brusman admitted he was one of those Farst was referring to.
“Candice has had to drag me along all throughout this process, but I don’t think there is any doubt that the park is better today than before the project was started,” said Brusman.
Farst said that the mosaic totem, which was made by local residents, is her favorite part of the park.
“The totem project was so good because it involved so many people,” said Farst. “It’s my favorite piece. It has such a character to it. When we were making it there were some ‘Doubting Thomases’ along the way. I’m so pleased with it because getting that many people involved and that many people buying into it was great.”
Farst said that in future years more art pieces will be added with local involvement.
Vandalia Art Park is connected to the Historical Society grounds via a footbridge constructed by the Vandalia Rotary Club which was also dedicated on Saturday.
R.B. Jergens Contractors, Inc. donated time to the project by clearing the tree line between the two properties, grading the area and constructing forms for the bridge. Vandalia Eagle Scout Stephen Lewis also contributed significantly, constructing a stone entryway on the Art Park side of the bridge.
“Art Parked,” was brought to Vandalia by Midwest Sculpture Initiative with monetary support from Public Art in Vandalia, the Vandalia Cultural Arts Committee, Minster Bank, Ken’s Pharmacy, the free exhibit will remain on display until April, 2016. The large sculptures join Matthew Weir’s “At Play in Geologic Times” permanent limestone sculpture, created during Vandalia’s “Chiseled” symposium in 2010.
Vandalia Art Park, 256 E. Alkaline Springs Road, is open to the public, free of charge, seven days a week from dawn to dusk. “So far, the community response has been overwhelming positive,” Farst said. “The park is going to be recognized as a destination not only for Vandalians, but for the Dayton region as a whole.”