Beginning in 2016, visitors to the Old Forest State Natural Area are welcomed into the woods through three new artistic entry gateways. Replacing the metal gates that formerly kept cars out of the forest, these new installations bring both artistic beauty and interpretive information to park visitors.
The gateways are a gift of longtime park lovers Henry & Lynne Turley and Bill & Becky Deupree, who have chosen to honor their parents by enhancing a space that was precious to them. They worked with Overton Park Conservancy’s Design Advisory Committee to select three local artists, whose designs were chosen because they invite visitors into the forest and honor the transition between the built environment and the wild.
Here’s a look at the three gateways with a word from the artists who designed them.
Yvonne Bobo, “Rhapsody”
Gateway beside golf clubhouse
This ring-like structure is a movable sculpture that opens on a pivot. The individual birds that form the structure are made of Core 10 steel and bronze and will change color as they age.
Yvonne talks about her inspiration: “I want to give homage to the hidden treasures that can be found in the Old Forest. This ring is designed to remind us that the forest is full of life and wonders: trees, mushrooms, wildflowers, vines, bugs, spiders, snakes, birds, frogs, butterflies, and much more. I have chosen a bold simple form to complement the complex texture and composition of the forest.”
Ben Butler, “Growth”
Gateway adjacent to East Parkway Playground
This simple but dramatic archway, built from layers of steel, calls to mind the many natural forms found in the Old Forest.
Ben talks about his inspiration: “The portal is at once recognizable — highly evocative of familiar patterns of natural growth. The outward accumulation of layers of material mimic the growth of fungi, seashell, and a myriad of other organic forms. Most notably, they suggest the annual growth rings of trees.”
“While tree rings immediately come to mind, the forms are at the same time decidedly abstract and whimsically mysterious. They are not content in illustrating a single organism, but rather strive to evoke a universal natural process, encouraging wonder and curiosity. They serve not as a direct representation of the forest, but as sensual monuments to the processes of nature, heightening our senses to the surrounding world.”
Tylur French, “Art Nouveau”
Gateway between Rainbow Lake Playground and Overton Bark
This arched entry is designed in the Art Nouveau style prevalent at the time of Overton Park’s founding. It features bollards that control vehicle access while also offering educational panels about the plants of the forest. Visitors will step between the bollards and onto an etched map in a concrete semi-circle, physically orienting them to the trail system.
Tylur talks about what inspired the design: “During the time George Kessler was educating the public on the importance of preserving natural areas and designing urban parks, Art Nouveau was capturing the beauty of nature and awakening the public’s senses to the natural world. Born of the same societal revolution, Overton Park was founded in 1901 while Art Nouveau was in its height as an artistic movement. The Art Nouveau style preserves the historical context under which the park was founded and physically represents the undercurrent of thought that gave birth to the park in the first place.”
“The subtle beauty of this design does not overwhelm the park visitors, nor does it diminish the powerful, quiet character of the Old Growth Forest. Visitors will feel the grandeur of the forest as they walk through the entrance. They will respect the beauty they are about to enter, they will be inspired to travel within.”