GREENFIELD — A bronze sculpture of a woman and two children will soon join the artistic landscape in downtown Greenfield.
The sculpture is in celebration of the local Dolly Parton Imagination Library Program, which provides free books to children born in Hancock County once a year, from birth to age five.
It is scheduled to be unveiled in mid-October, after it is placed next to the fountain in front of the Hancock County Annex at 111 American Legion Place.
The $100,000 sculpture is a gift to the community from the Community Foundation of Hancock County, which launched and runs the local Imagination Library program.
The sculpture is intended to not only celebrate the program but to show gratitude to those donors who helped establish the endowment fund that will support the literacy program into the future.
The artwork features a 5-year-old girl modeled after Kayla Ball, the first local Imagination Library participant, along with a woman reading to her young son.
“It represents the span of children in the community who read the Imagination Library books, birth to age 5,” said Laura Parker, communications director for the local community foundation.
Greenfield’s city planner, Joanie Fitzwater, went before the county commissioners Sept. 19 for permission to place the sculpture in front of the annex. Permission was granted to place it in front of the northwest corner of the building, along with a plaque detailing the artwork and the Imagination Library program.
Fitzwater said the sculpture is a perfect addition to the future Riley Trail, an upcoming installation that will celebrate arts and literature, especially as it pertains to the local community.
Poet James Whitcomb Riley and artist Will Vawter — arguably Greenfield’s two most prominent native sons — will be heavily featured along the trail, along with other works of art.
The trail will go right by the Riley Boyhood Home & Museum at 250 W. Main St., and sections of prose from Riley’s poems will be sketched into the sidewalks.
The trail will feature a linear path in the shape of a square, including a section of the Pennsy Trail to the south, American Legion Place and East Street on the east, North Street to the north and the Riley home property and Riley Avenue to the west.
Fitzwater said the Riley Trail has been on the city’s wishlist for years, and is being made possible in part by the $18 million grant awarded through the Stellar Community designation the city won in 2018, in partnership with Fortville and Hancock County.
The trail will ideally help draw people off the Pennsy Trail by encouraging them to explore downtown Greenfield and its many murals and art installations, which share a glimpse into the city’s heritage and history.
Ideally the trail will also lead them to explore the area’s restaurants and shops.
The trail will also take visitors a half block from the Twenty North art gallery at 20 W. North St., which is run by Hancock Arts.
The new Imagination Library sculpture will join other notable bronze sculptures downtown, including one of Vawter painting on an open canvas in Depot Street park and one of Riley sitting on a bench in front of his boyhood home. A second statue of Riley sits in front of the Hancock County courthouse in the heart of downtown.
The Riley Trail will also lead travelers past many of the murals downtown, including one just east of Lincoln Square Pancake House called “The Barefoot Boy,” based on one of Riley’s most prominent poems.
Fitzwater said creating the Riley Trail is yet another strong step toward making downtown Greenfield an official arts and cultural district, a designation offered by the Indiana Arts Commission to communities with a thriving arts and cultural scene.
Such a designation helps boost tourism thanks to being marketed by the state, she said, plus it’s a great way to showcase Greenfield’s history and heritage through local art.
“Public art can create spaces that make people feel represented, foster community ties, and give people a sense of ownership and belonging in their community,” Fitzwater shared with the county commissioners last week.
“Public art is also a great place making tool that drives economic development by attracting talent. There are many reasons to support the arts in a public setting,” she said.
Fitzwater said construction of the Riley Trail should go out for bid next month, with construction to take place in 2024.