Accessible art enhances natural beauty


By Marilyn Delk


Projects mounted by Darke County Center for the Arts and Darke County Parks are adding to the already impressive opportunities to find delight in local natural beauty augmented by artistic creations. The latest such additions can be found at historic Bear’s Mill and Bish Discovery Center in Greenville; both of these delightful works are by Kirk Seese, who presided over the installations during Eclipse Weekend and thoroughly enjoyed the celebration and hoopla surrounding that momentous event in our community.

Chosen by the DCCA Art Trail Committee after an artists’ call posted on social media and the Ohio Arts Council Website, the Maryland-based artist has original works now enhancing sites across the country. After growing up in an artistic family, Kirk Seese attended Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), where he not only earned a degree in graphic design and illustration but also met his future wife, then went on to serve as an arts administrator for twenty years.

Despite the fact that Bear’s Mill is an alternate spelling of the name of the mill’s early owner Gabriel Baer and not a nod to the furry creatures who pretty much disappeared from our areas in the mid-1800’s, Seese’s submission of a bear sculpture based on the name of the historic building was deemed a fitting and appealing addition to the site. After being chosen, Kirk contacted welder Ethan Brooks, who usually spends his time repairing heavy machinery and performing necessary work on Port of Baltimore bridges; the two began a fruitful collaboration at Christmastime, 2023, then worked together every weekend thereafter until the local installations, which have gained notice as well as instant popularity with youngsters who have already enjoyed a climb on the whimsical yet solid bear-like structure standing near the mill race.

The Bear’s Mill Bear was the artist’s first attempt to create a welded steel animal; Seese describes the process of putting the 6 sheets of 1/8 inch steel pieces together as similar to completing a jigsaw puzzle. The cute, cuddly massive sculpture weighs about one thousand pounds, and is an abstraction of the real creature. Kirk says that although he researched Bear’s Mill before starting the project, art doesn’t really have to make sense (as in “Bear’s Mill” not having any real relationship with the ursine creature of its name.) “I wanted to create something to stand out in the woods, something I can imagine people becoming involved with,” he explained. A delightful aspect of the charming piece is its fascinating color effect; the Bear appears to be brown or purple or pink or multi-colored depending upon when and where you stand to examine it.

The Bish Butterfly was the first sculpture that the artist has created using recycled objects, although he has long been collecting materials for such an endeavor. “Recycle, reduce, reuse was the appropriate theme for this piece, so the creation needed to utilize those elements,” Seese said. The creature’s head is a vintage speaker from a drive-in movie theater, its eyes are Farmall Cub tractor lights, and its body a de-commissioned fire extinguisher. The graceful wings are made from clear plexiglass printed with inks that cure in ultra-violet light, creating a delicate yet solid reproduction of the fluttering insect. Surrounding the Butterfly are repurposed kayaks that were collected by the artist while driving around Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., an element adding solidity to the delightful whimsical structure.

Kirk Seese is appreciative of the opportunity to create art that will “outlast all of us and be enjoyed by generations yet to come.” He finds the entire process—the development of the project from ideas on paper to 3D modeling in CAD software, cutting the steel, then gathering the pieces, welding, grinding, painting, rigging, coordinating, delivering, moving and installing, then seeing people of all ages enjoy that original idea—extremely powerful, and is thrilled with the outcome. And so are the local sponsors of this happy addition to the beauty surrounding us on the Darke County Art Trail. For more information, contact DCCA at

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