Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Bob’s Art Blog: From the Ground Up (Part 1)

The Olewine Nature Center at Wildwood Park

“Art in the Wild” (AITW), the annual art event envisioned and promoted by the Friends of Wildwood, is not for the faint of heart.

Beginning in the dead of winter, artists are faced with the daunting task of creating an environmental installation guided by nature over the course of time. March weather is a challenge all its own as one may be dealing with snow-covered terrain, harsh winds and the open grounds “logging” hours clearing a site to build a thing of beauty made primarily from cast-off tree limbs, fallen branches and detritus. It takes a pioneering spirit to realize that vision in the end, much like traveling to a new land, for that is what the artists create. Think of it as a brave new world when one enters the path leading into Wildwood Park for its 3.1-mile journey. That is the vista that “Art in the Wild” gives viewers as the ninth edition just got under way geared for its April 10 “reveal.” Starting with an idea and vision of what the final presentation will look like when viewed by the public a month after its start is no easy feat.

As with any building project that requires a certain blueprint and must operate within a framework of limited space, the creative options diminish due to the laws of nature. Such may well be the case as one begins the task of planning and creating an “Art in the Wild” installation. Having been part of AITW since its beginning, “environmental engineer” Beau MacGinnes, assisted by his mother Jana, could easily be stuck in a creative quagmire. The MacGinnes team added a plus-one to the mix this year, enlisting the aid of sister/daughter, Aubrey McNaughton. As in business, the phrase has always been location, location, location, and, for AITW artists, the same applies, perhaps even more so. Looking at the landscape for 2021, they felt that they found the perfect site for this year’s challenge that may take them down the rabbit hole for a wild ride.

There are rules and guidelines in place so that all participants play on a level field (even in Wildwood Park), which, by its very name, would indicate that this might be difficult to achieve. And this go-round may feature 18 approved artists and their installations.

AITW’s process really begins in January with choosing the site and making an application through a formal proposal to the committee overseeing the project. A field of entrants officially met collectively on March 6, and actual groundbreaking started the following day. It begins with a concrete idea of the desired end result but is subject to change along the way as nature has its own ideas. Clearing the space is critical and akin to producing a blank canvas and going from there. The gathering of materials provides the deliberate decay of the winter’s toll on the land and becomes the basis for a fresh take, apropos this year as the theme is “Reimagining.” The landscape lends itself to a romanticized version of beauty truly lying in the eyes of the beholder. While interviewing Beau and Jana, I heard, “If the public views the installation as magic, a vignette of our vision, then we have achieved our goal. The mere act of creating is reward enough, and we are thankful that the Friends made their vision come to fruition.”

Look for Part II in April…the “After” will be notes from the field as AITW opens to the public April 10.

Disclosure: The author is the husband of Jana MacGinnes and father of Beau MacGinnes and Aubrey McNaughton.

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