The Statesboro Art Park has grown in the shape of a flower when seen from above, with a walkway forming a stem and surrounding petals, and some buds that await future art installations expected to be renewed and replaced over the years.
Visible from City Hall and the Willie McTell Trail, the park occupies a strip of land leased by the city from the Norfolk Southern Railway, beside its tracks at the corner of East Main and Railroad Streets. Six or seven years ago, the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority, or DSDA, first expressed interest in the site for a park. It was then included in lease arrangements for the larger area a little farther south along the tracks and trail that became the dog park in 2018. The DSDA or city pays about $300 a year for the smaller site.
But the art park’s recent design and creation has been shepherded by City Councilman Phil Boyum. The city has spent a little over $50,000 so far to develop the park, with the actual installation being carried out largely by city employees with volunteer help from several organizations.
“City staff has been working on the art park for several months now,” Assistant City Manager Jason Boyles reported to the mayor and council during their Jan. 17 work session.
The engineering plan was developed by Parker Engineering, based on a little diorama that Boyum, the District 1 council member, created and which was still in the City Hall council chambers.
Petals and stem
Boyles, the assistant city manager, described the overall design and materials used, which were illustrated in his slideshow.
“The key feature of the park, as you can see … is it resembles a flower,” he said. “It has petals. It has a curvilinear stem. Some of the features associated with it are various colors of rock, a natural color of concrete. The elements along the flower are varied in colors and textures, creating some contrast.”
Other, long-term features of the park are expected include a sundial – planned by the Leadership Bulloch class in the program hosted by the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce – and a hopscotch court, he noted. The DSDA is planning a “Welcome to Downtown” feature.
Actually, work on an environmental site assessment was done in November 2019-July 2021, according to the timeline in Boyles’ slideshow. The city had soil analysis and soil remediation done, coordinating with the railroad companies, in fall 2021. Construction plans were prepared in the first half of 2022 and received railroad approval, before site leveling work and forming and pouring of the concrete walks took place from June through December.
January and February 2023 bring the final stages, including placement of the stone and recycled plastic infill, further landscaping, and the first art installations, according to the timeline. Boyles said the project was, by last week, about 85% complete “as far as site work goes.”
“We anticipate that, barring any other unforeseen challenges, we should be finished by the end of February … (with) all of the hardscape items, concrete and rock,” Boyles said.
Art in season
The flower’s center and the plant’s three smaller blossoms are intended as bases for art installations, such as sculptures, that would be rotated out and replaced with fresh ones over time.
The Betty Foy Sanders Department of Art at Georgia Southern University and the Averitt Center for the Arts are two of several organizations Councilman Boyum hopes to involve in guiding and helping to fund the rotation of art.
“It would be nice to have a multi-organizational committee – Georgia Southern, the city, Bulloch Parks and Rec, somebody from the school board. …,” he said. “So, the idea would be, you put three sculptures in and maybe rotate one every year and so each one gets rotated every three years. Maybe you do one Georgia Southern, one local … one regional. All of that can be set up and discussed.”
Boyum also suggested that a continuing funding source will be needed to pay artists a stipend or rent for their works. He mentioned the hotel-motel tax in this context.
Not all of the “rocks” filling in spaces in and around the giant flower are natural stone. The rocks in colors other than white are aggregate plastic and glass material created by Jon Cook of GreenRock Recycling, the local company previously known as Boro Recycling. Approximately six cubic yards of this material has been used in the park, Boyum said.
The Statesboro Art Park was included in the 2022 Downtown Statesboro Master Plan as part of the Art Trail.
Spending on the park so far totals about $50,347 from the city’s Capital Improvements Projects fund, according to Public Works and Engineering Director John Washington. The city applied for an Asphalt Art Initiative grant offered by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Georgia Municipal Association, but information on the amount this provided was not available Wednesday.