Two of the leading lights of the Art on the Prairie festival, Mary Nichols and Jenny Eklund, presented a program about the art scene in Perry at the November meeting of the Dallas County Area Retired School Personnel Association (DCARSPA).
Nichols and Eklund proposed many of the public art projects seen around Perry since founding Art on the Prairie in 2010. They started in 2015 with the first public art installation located just behind La Poste, and the four sculptures on the boulevard with ties to Perry’s history were added shortly thereafter.
In 2017 came the pot pouring molten metal, which recognized the importance of the foundry and Pete VanKirk’s support of the town. Then an Arts-and-Crafts-themed sculpture honoring Roberta Green Ahmundson’s gift to Perry was raised. In 2018 came a plow to honor the agriculture of the area as the third boulevard sculpture, with the Midwest Hiawatha symbolizing the importance of the railroad to Perry’s development completing the four-piece set.
“Perry has become known for its art scene,” Eklund told the DCARSPA members.
The pair also cited the sculptures by Cheri Schieb located on the bike trail that celebrate the growth of biking in the community, and they discussed several murals in the downtown area, with a new one to be unveiled the weekend of Nov. 11-12 as part of the Art on the Prairie celebration.
Painted by local residents, the new mural is designed to resemble a stained-glass window with a prairie theme. It is installed on the wall above the Raccoon Valley Bank in downtown Perry.
Nichols, quoting Ahmundson, said, “The land was the magnet that drew us here,” and that was the impetus for the new mural.
Another sculpture project is planned for 2024. Known as “The Bluejay Way,” the artwork was developed by the Student Activities Department Advisory Council in 2014 and identified the core values defining what it means to be a Perry Bluejay.
Sue Leslie is the secretary of the Dallas County Area Retired School Personnel Association.