Friday, June 22, 2012

Topiary Park: Taking Columbus' City Parks to the Next Level

Topiary Park in Columbus, OH
      James T. Mason, an artist teaching at the Cultural Arts Center in Columbus, had a vision in the late 1980's to create a topiary park based on George Seurat's 7' x 10' painting of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.
The Seurat Painting
The post-impressionist masterpiece is a familiar one permanently on display at the Art Institute of Chicago that took Seurat two years to complete.  

Topiary Park Entrance

      The historic Town-Franklin neighborhood (just east of downtown) is filled with turn-of-the-last century townhouses.  The entrance to Topiary Park is a château style structure housing a small museum and gift shop reflecting the park and painting.
Bas Relief and Topiaries
A short walk takes you to the top of a hill with an easel displaying a bas relief of the famous painting.  Standing a couple of steps to the left,  you'll find yourself in the perfect spot to view the painting of leisurely working and middle-class Parisians in topiary form.  And quite a view it is—up to 12' metal forms housing trained yews in the shape of 54 human figures either "strolling" the park, lounging, or floating in one of 8 boats; along with 3 dogs, a monkey, and (of course) a cat.  It's the only topiary park in the world based on a painting. It truly is life (in this case nature) imitating art and art imitating life.  

The Pond with Boaters
The Topiaries Continue to Grow and Fill Their Forms
      The seven acres of Topiary Park is maintained by the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department.  On the site of the former Ohio School for the Deaf, the land was reclaimed after a devastating fire destroyed all but one of the unoccupied buildings in 1981.  That building is today being restored into apartments.  When Elaine Mason (then wife of James T.) presented his concept to the parks director, the plan met with great enthusiasm and private funding.  Within four years the park was dedicated in 1992 and continues to charm visitors with its unique interpretation, beauty, and whimsy.

I better keep moving before they make a topiary out of me!

No comments: