Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Nature Shapers: Fresh-air art refreshes the homebound at Wildwood Park.

Image from last year’s “Art in the Wild”

Here’s your perfect antidote to mind-numbing weeks of coronavirus-induced cabin fever.

It’s close by, it’s creative, and it’s outdoors. Gloriously outdoors, under golden sunlight and towering trees, straddling a glistening lake, rare birds that strut and soar, and an explosion of green lushness that is the essence of Dauphin County’s Wildwood Lake sanctuary.

For those who have spent untold hours trapped inside, obeying the governor’s statewide stay-at-home order, this open-air art exhibit is a welcome injection of natural beauty and artistic flair, combined with a simple, silent reminder to rejoice in simply being alive.

The seventh annual “Art in the Wild” exhibition is more welcome than ever, as it serves up 16 displays of human-created environmental art, woven into Mother Nature’s handiwork.

This year’s rendition may be a bit more scaled-back than in past years, and modifications may be made to protect public health and promote social distancing, but the green light is still on.

“We are on like Plan F,” said environmental educator Richelle Corty, explaining the many iterations of planning after the COVID-19 pandemic hit just as artists began creating their installations back in March.

Even though Wildwood’s Olewine Nature Center and park restrooms are currently closed, and all other Wildwood programming has been canceled through May 30, park trails are still open. And “Art in the Wild” has survived like a wildflower poking through the concrete.

Corty said that about half the exhibits this year are from first-time entrants and half are from returning artists. Prizes will be awarded for first, second and third place, and for “People’s Choice.”

“[The artists] really want to do this,” said Corty. “They don’t have awards and judges in mind. They like the feedback and use the positive feedback to improve, but a lot of them want to do it because it’s something they love to do.”

This year’s theme is “Woodland Harmony.”

Corty said many artists played upon the theme of musical harmony, using instrumentalism or a musical staff. Others interpreted it to mean peace among nature, utilizing different shapes representing unity and tolerance.

The natural lifecycle proved to be a popular direction for artists, such as the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly and the transition of tadpoles into frogs.

“At these times, people are drawn toward the peace they feel in nature,” Corty said. “The theme speaks to the present moment.”

Before the pandemic, “Art in the Wild” was looking forward to its largest year ever, featuring four area high schools and showcasing 20 installations. The art displays dovetail well with 3-D art classes offered in many high schools, Corty said. But with the governor’s school closure order, students lost access to their classrooms and their tools and could no longer participate.

Some artists couldn’t access their workspaces and ended up creating while under quarantine at home. One teacher, shut out from her school, found someone with a personal kiln for her ceramic pieces.

Many artists use durable natural materials, such as branches, in their work. Corty said. Wildwood has a remnant pile, which artists have free access to, along with anything fallen along the trails. Visitors are not allowed to take live animals and plants from the park, but artists are permitted to use fallen trees, logs and vines.

“I think it’s one of our programs that reaches the most people,” Corty said.

Usually, Wildwood offers a map of the exhibits along the 3.1-mile trail, but the brochure probably won’t be published until June to obey the governor’s guidance about touching shared surfaces.

May 11 is the final cut for installations. Tentatively, the exhibit will be unveiled on May 16.

The exhibit might be one of the few surviving outdoor art exhibits of the year in the area, Corty said. While “Media Day” and the “Meet the Artists” reception have fallen by the wayside, it is expected that installations will be outside through September.

Visitors drink it in. So do the artists.

“I love how ‘Art In The Wild’ allows artists to use their creativity in unique ways while providing our communities with great recreational alternatives,” one artist said.

“I think it’s going to really help lift people’s spirits to see all the artwork on display as usual,” added another. “Thank you for continuing to support our community!”

One participating artist regularly signs his emails, “For the Love of Art.”

That’s a passion that no voracious, single-stranded virus can vanquish.

“Art in the Wild” runs from mid-May to early autumn at Wildwood Park, 100 Wildwood Way, Harrisburg. For more information, visit

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