GROVE CITY — George Junior Republic welding instructor Mike Jenkins, working with the youths creating the sculpture, wraps an aluminum train track around a portion of the sculpture, seen in the photo as trees. Contributed photoFour students from Greenville High School have worked to create one-of-a-kind sculptures that, once completed, will be placed at the Main Street trailhead of the Mercer County Trail Associations trail, currently under planning and construction.
GHS seniors Gabriella VanAken, Olivia Heaton and Samantha Dickson, along with sophomore Brianna Pennington, used the idea of what represents Greenville, pulling in different aspects of its history as a centerpiece for the trailhead, according to Renee Howard, one of two GHS art teachers.
Howard said the students’ designs for the sculpture will be merged into a larger sculpture through combined efforts of students at GHS and George Junior Republic.
Another GHS art teacher, Brent Beckstein said, “The students were really excited to have their designs selected for this sculpture. I believe the trail will be a valuable asset to this community. It would be great for this community to have a tradition of adding a new sculpture and a new community recreation area every year.”
Fred Kiser, a representative of the Mercer County Trails Association and Greenville resident, said, “The sculpture will draw attention to the Main Street trailhead as we finish the trail top dressing, and we want walkers, bicyclists and runners to use the trail.”
As far as the inspiration behind her design, VanAken said, “The sculpture is intended to incorporate the history of Greenville into a sculpture. I used a design of water and railroad tracks wrapping around each other to represent the canals and railways, which helped to create Greenville. As someone who enjoys the outdoors, I’m excited to help beautify this trail.”
For Heaton, being involved in the project was exciting, because “the trail is important because it offers more opportunities for physical fitness. I believe that having the sculpture there will draw more attention to the trail, and therefore encourage the use of the trail.”
For her design, Heaton incorporated railroad tracks, the water that flows next to the trail, and bicycles.
“I combined all of these things together to make an archway, to provide shade, with benches inside as a resting spot, or maybe a place to tie a shoe before going on the trail,” she said.
“I believe this art piece will have a positive sway for the use of the trails,” Pennington said. “This sculpture will not only attract members of the community to use the trails, but also show a piece of the history of the railroads themselves.
Her input for the sculpture was “to show the dedication of all the people before us who have made the trails what they are today. As a high school student, being privileged to even help beautify the trails to benefit the community brings me a lot of joy.”
Dickson said, “I hope that our sculpture will draw not only the eyes, but the whole person. The trail is part of our history as the canal route, but also is shaping who Greenville is. We are slowly becoming a more environmental town, which is very different than our factory-filled past. I think that the sculpture and the trail will add some beauty to Greenville’s streets and reputation.”
While the sculpture has been designed by GHS students, it will fabricated by GJR students under the direction of Glen Sanders, the facility’s fine arts director, plus Susan Boland, GJR director of development, with support by Mark Ferrara, Greenville superintendent.
Boland and Sanders said the project came about as a collaborative following the success of the creation and placement of 10 parking sculptures in downtown Grove City, a project by GJR students.
Sanders said the work will be completed by welding students, with assistance by instructors, at GJR’s vocational classroom.
“This is a way to make sure our students work on and hone their skills, learn about their trade, but also gives them pride in know that they have created something that is on display,” Sanders said.
Because it will be aluminum, it will have a different look than other sculptures, Boland said, to which she credits donations by the aluminum industries in the Greenville area, including Ilsco, Werner and Pennex.
She added that there is still about $5,000 needed to finish purchasing materials to create the sculpture. All donors giving more than $1,000 will have their names placed on a plaque at the sculpture site.
“I believe that the students really enjoyed this opportunity to create an installation piece for their community,” Howard said. “I also believe that future students will benefit from this new tradition. It gives them a sense of ownership, of pride ... it is their home.”
Sanders said the sculpture should be completed in time for Heritage Days.
YOU CAN HELP
Donations for the GHS Mercer County Trails Association sculpture can mailed to George Junior Republic, attention Susan Boland, 233 George Junior Road, PO Box 1058, Grove City, PA 16127 or online at support.gjr.org and selecting gift designation ‘Projects and Programs’ andArt20- Greenville.
By HOLLY PATTERSON