Mash-up might be a newish word, but it’s certainly not a new idea—fusing together two or more unrelated items or concepts, then something inspiring springs from the mix.
“Art in the Wild” is Harrisburg’s mash-up of an art gallery, a student film project, a contest and a hike.
From now through October, you can walk the 3.1-mile trail encircling Wildwood Park’s 229 acres and wetlands to see unique expressions from area outdoor artists. The theme for the sixth annual contest, “Natural Abstraction,” lends itself to creative interpretations through 17 works, all composed of natural, native elements like logs, vines, branches and herbaceous materials.
According to committee Chair Elizabeth Johnson, you will find entries from both talented individuals and groups—first-timers and seasoned outdoor artists.
Veteran contributor Beau MacGinnes designed his sculpture this year with the goal of showing the beauty of the world around us.
“I like to only use things found in nature,” he said. “The past two years that I won first place, I incorporated dead or fallen sticks and branches. In past years, I’ve transplanted moss from other locations to my site.”
For MacGinnes, season changes also hold appeal. In April, the canvass is colorless from winter. Then a little magic happens.
“Spring and summer fill the pieces with lush greens and other colors,” he said. “Each art piece shapes around its background, growing into the environment.”
Brook Lauer, first-place winner in 2013, said that her entry plays upon interactivity with natural surroundings. Her sculpture, “Natural Connections,” is a simulation of heart and brain neurons using vines and sticks united with rainbow-colored yarn, symbolizing biological links.
To further connect the public with her piece, visitors can write a word or phrase of gratitude on a nearby rock and place it in a heart-shaped basket.
“[It shows] the “importance of our human experience and its connection to our natural environments,” she said. “How we need each other to survive.”
“Art in the Wild” also has a community component, with participation by students at the Capital Area School for the Arts. This year, 16 students in the film and video program shot a video, designed for those who cannot walk the trail themselves.
CASA teacher Mick Corman said he enjoys this project for its fast-paced, documentary-style filming. The video features how some pieces in the exhibit were created, along with artist interviews.
“It gives [students] the ability to film artwork outside the usual gallery setting,” he said. “Students have been happy with the resulting video and to work on a great project.”
The exhibit also inspired a Dickinson College “art and sustainability” class, which submitted an entry as a class project.
To encourage and reward artists, “Art in the Wild” is a juried exhibit, featuring a prominent outdoor artist as judge. This year, it’s Roy Staab, a Wisconsin-based artist who has mounted sculptures throughout the world, including along the Hudson River, in New York’s Central Park and in Finland.
“It is important that this exhibition is well received in Harrisburg,” Staab said.
In judging the pieces, his criteria are materials and how they are used, how well the exhibit is crafted, siting, originality and creativity, he said. A first-place prize of $600, a second-place prize of $400 and a third-place prize of $200 will be awarded.
An extra layer of community voting offers more chances for honors and prizes. So, when you’re walking around the loop, be sure to cast your ballot for the People’s Choice Awards, which will be announced at the “Celebrate Wildwood” event on Sept. 23. Winners will receive monetary awards and a year’s membership with Friends of Wildwood.
Over the years, “Art in the Wild” has become one of the main drivers for visitors to Wildwood Park. Park, said Manager Chris Rebert. He cited a record attendance in 2017 of more than 100,000 visitors—a 40 percent increase from six years ago.
“I believe ‘Art in the Wild’ pushes people to get out and exercise and see beautiful sculptures while doing so,” MacGinnes said. “I really hope to see more parks adopt similar ideas.”
“Art in the Wild” runs through October at Wildwood Park, Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.wildwoodlake.org.