By Marilyn Delk
As we approach the colorful season of transition, autumn will provide a lovely opportunity to explore the new and still developing Darke County Art Trail. The grand opening of the Art Trail took place in June with the unveiling of the trail’s first new installation, an impressive sculpture by Union City artist Joshua Shepherd honoring revered Shawnee warrior Tecumseh, who had once resided at or very near the site of this stately statue at Shawnee Prairie Preserve. Darke County Center for the Arts received funds for the initial sculpture from the state of Ohio, and has recently secured $180,000 in additional funding through the state capital budget to assist in expansion of this community-enhancing project.
The current Art Trail map includes “Tecumseh” among ten diverse stops throughout Darke County. Among those listed is the impressive mural created by Mississinawa Valley art students that graces a Union City viaduct, transforming a once-ugly eyesore into a charming and lovely introduction to the community. Art Trail explorers traveling south on U.S.Route 127 near Ansonia will discover a striking barn mural by Scott Hagan featuring Darke County’s own Annie Oakley. And in Versailles, sculptures abound on the town square including “Monet the Impressionist” by Gary Lee Price, an appropriately French-themed piece in a town bearing the name of the iconic palace in France.
The Gum Wall at the Maid-Rite in Greenville serves as an ever-changing, perennially popular cultural icon gracing the Art Trail. More traditional outdoor art pieces within Greenville city limits include the Annie Oakley statue by Montana artist Terry Mimnaugh in the heart of town at the intersection of Broadway, Martin Street, and Washington Avenue, and the impressive sculpture in Greenville City Park honoring native American chief Little Turtle, another work by Joshua Shepherd.
DCCA has partnered with other local organizations to create the Darke County Art Trail; in addition to Darke County Parks and Darke County Visitors Bureau, Wayne HealthCare is contributing to the venture. Multiple artworks are on display within Wayne Hospital, including quilts created by Mississinawa Valley art students, another impressive project undertaken by MV teacher Ashley Austerman with financial support from the Ohio Arts Council.
St. Clair Memorial Hall at 215 West Fourth Street in Greenville is a work of art in and of itself; the iconic building, completed in 1912, is beautifully enhanced by three magnificent stained glass windows gracing the building’s grand entryway. The windows symbolize the values held by Henry and Ella St. Clair, as well as the standard virtues they wished to endow upon Greenville—Literature, Labor, and Art.
Greenville Public Library, another majestic gift to the community by Henry St. Clair, holds stunning works within its walls and on its beautifully landscaped grounds. The most recent addition to the Library’s outdoor art collection, a life-size bronze sculpture by Los Angeles artist Max Turner entitled “Reading Opens a World of Knowledge,” was donated by Alex and Kathy Warner in honor of Alex’s parents to represent “Paul and Millie Warner’s interest in education, reading, love for learning, children, the library, and their travels around the world.” Inside the building, two striking art glass windows rightfully attract attention, one honoring playwright William Shakespeare and the other memorializing the Library’s benefactor with the following quote beneath a portrait of Henry St. Clair: “And in the wreck of mortal lives, something immortal still survives.”
That statement applies to the ultimate aim of the Darke County Art Trail—to provide lasting tribute to the beauty that surrounds us in our community, linking with our past as well as inspiring our future. Artist Timothy Wells, DCCA Arts Trail Coordinator, finds his work to be exciting because “Art trails help promote the arts for everyone, providing a reason for locals to explore their communities with a new and fresh perspective while also providing tourists with a reason to visit the area.” Check it out for yourself; maps are available at Darke County Visitors Bureau, Shawnee Prairie Nature Preserve, and Greenville Public Library. For more information or to suggest an addition to the Art Trail, contact DCCA at 937-547-0908 or online at www.darkecountyarts.org.