“Elevation,” a lovely depiction of three soaring songbirds on a lacy, welded background, was installed Thursday at an entry to the Ashland watershed above the swimming reservoir.
Created by Cheryl Garcia of Jacksonville, the sturdy steel artwork sits at the foot of Bandersnatch Trail, up a dirt road above Glenview Street. Nearby are companion pieces, the Pacific Fisher by Jeremy Criswell and “Water Is Life” by Karen Rycheck.
The three birds could be swallows or bluebirds — and the filagree design represents thermal uplifts of air, said Garcia. She worked with a handheld plasma cutter, using steel mixed with copper, nickel and carbon which turns a rich color of rust that doesn’t need to be painted.
The art, all privately funded, “is dedicated to the perpetual stewardship of the Ashland Watershed and honors the efforts of all who have worked so diligently to protect this forest, the primary sources of Ashland’s water,” said city Councilor Stefani Seffinger, who, along with Rep. Pam Marsh and Ashland ceramics artist Sue Springer, led the project.
The title, “Elevation,” said Seffinger, “reflects our elevated efforts to protect the Earth’s environment … With the way the world is now, you want to give young people hope and get them active in protecting the Earth.”
Garcia, who has executed many metal art installations in the valley, including the interactive teaching display at Walker Elementary School, pulled out a big wrench and bolted the three-foot high “Elevation” to its concrete foundation with a satisfied smile.
“I’m really happy with it,” she said. “It leads people up into the forest. People today are so sucked into digital technology. These trails open your perspective into the natural world. It’s really a special honor to have my work up here because the forest is so dear to my heart.”
The artworks were paid for by $12,000 raised from Barry and Kathryn Thalden, (Lloyd) Haines & Friends, Jane Stromberg and Seffinger.
The watershed art program honors and is part of a multi-agency sustainability effort, which serves as a model for many cities around the nation, that includes the Ashland Forest Resiliency Stewardship Project, the Climate Energy Action Plan, Lomakatsi Restoration Project, the Ashland Forest Lands Commission (which oversees the city’s vast trails system), Ashland Woodland & Trails Association, city Parks & Recreation, the Public Arts Commission (which approved it) and others, said Seffinger.
Much of their efforts goes to thinning dangerous fuel loads in the watershed. It also honors retiring Jeff McFarland of Ashland Parks & Recreation, a pioneer in maintaining trails.
Garcia, a former Ashland resident, learned metalwork in Colorado 25 years ago and reflects that she has created art built to stand the centuries in New Mexico, Rhode Island, Texas, Colorado and Oregon. She is embarking on a three-year “Artwork at Cantrall-Buckley Park” on the Applegate River near Ruch. It will show 11 sculptures of trees, plants, animals, flowers and Monarch butterflies.
A formal public dedication will happen at 4 p.m. Friday, July 6, at the art’s location.
John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com.