A new addition to a popular path in Mars Hill sees the continued growth of a public art project celebrating Madison County manufacturing. The Nov. 18 unveiling of “Timekeeper,” an armillary sundial created by Tennessee-based artist Mary Ruden, adds a second art work along the Otis T. Duck Greenway in Mars Hill.
Just as the first piece, David Sheldon’s “Mars Cutter” celebrates the Mars Hill grinding wheel maker Advanced Superabrasives, “Timekeeper” honors Marshall’s packaging manufacturer Printpak. Inlaid into the sundial’s pedestal are medallions representing the individuals who make and use the company’s products.
“It really shows our commitment with all the different elements of our work around it,” said Scott Mayberry, manager of the Marshall plant. “I think it’s reflective of our work. I’m thrilled. I hadn’t seen it before today, so the unveiling was really nice to see the way they’ve incorporated our business into the art.”
To the artist, beyond the inclusion of images representative of Printpak, the sundial honors the intersection of art and science. “I think it’s interesting for people to learn about science and art when they are related together,” Ruden said in a phone interview days after the unveiling. “I hope that people come out and enjoy it, and think about sundials as a traditional art form.”
Ruden, who designed the work with Robert Benfield, added that she found inspiration in the ancient time-telling technique, in part, because of her Scottish descent. “Over on the British Isles, in England and Scotland, there are so many sundials, it seems they’re in every park or city square. They’re so common place, almost like pink flamingos in Florida. I’m always living, dreaming and thinking up sundials.”
She did warn, however, that anyone expecting the sundial to be accurate down to the second may be disappointed. “I was helping install the sculpture when a man, a jogger, came by and looked at his watch. He said, ‘I think you’re sundial is about 20 minutes off.’ Well, sundial time is different from clock time because of where you are in the world.”
The sculpture’s placement just below Mars Hill Elementary School had the students play an active part in the sculpture site and the unveiling. Hand-prints from fifth-grade students line the concrete around the roughly six-foot tall work. The school’s principal Daniel Metcalf said the experience of placing hands in wet concrete offered the students a new experience that, quite literally, made an impression.
“Luckily, no one did a face plant,” Metcalf said to the laughter of the more than 100 students and members of the community gathered for the morning unveiling.
Three more additions to the Manufacturing Art Park along the two-mile walkway connecting Mars Hill University and with Bailey Street sidewalks are planned as part of grant through the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina. The initiative aims to create an outdoor art gallery for Otis Duck Greenway walkers and runners, strollers and bike riders.
Mitch Hampton, chair of Madison County’s Economic Development Board, said in his remarks before the sculpture unveiling that the Manufacturing Art Park brings together the county’s rich tradition of industry and the arts. “Manufacturing and artists have greatly contributed to the growth and culture of our community. The goals of this project are to celebrate and unite both of these with a public art project that embodies the craft and skills utilized in both of these activities.”
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