A local public art initiative is reaching the point of completion.
The Downtown Marion, Inc. Cardinal Project has just one cardinal sculpture left to place in Marion’s downtown district and that will happen once a major renovation of Founders Park, located at the intersection of Church and Main streets, is completed. There are 17 cardinals representing Ohio being the 17th state admitted to the United States.
Installation began in the summer of 2021 and continued this year. The last of the 17 cardinal sculptures, called “Impression: Cardinal,” was designed and painted by Ben Kern, manager of The Guild located on West Center Street in downtown Marion. That cardinal is on temporary display at The Guild and will remain there until the Founders Park renovation work is completed.
Dean Jacob, president and CEO of the Marion Community Foundation, said the initiative was started about six years ago in an effort to provide downtown Marion with a signature project unique to city.
“The project was a concept several years of why can’t we bring a downtown public art project to Marion, Ohio, similar to these downtown sculpture projects that we see all across the country,” Jacob said. “Cows on parade in Chicago, the pelicans in Pensacola, the salmon in Anchorage, the buffalo in Salt Lake City – it was like why can’t we do this in Marion, Ohio? We brought on Downtown Marion, Inc. as a partner because it would be a downtown project. Then the other part of the idea was that all the work would be done by volunteers – artists and people to do the installation.
“The artists have all put in a ton of time and talent on these projects and the people doing the installation have been great.”
The Marion Community Foundation paid for half of the cost of the project with 17 sponsors secured to cover the other half of the expenses incurred, Jacob said.
Each cardinal was designed and painted by an artist who either resides in Marion County or is originally from Marion County. Kern said using the local talent was “the heart” of the cardinal project.
“I wouldn’t have considered going out of town to hire other for this,” Kern said artists. “It’s a community project from start to finish and I think having the local artists is what it’s all about. My motivation for doing this is that I just wanted to be part of the project. I wanted to support the project.”
Kern’s cardinal is a tribute to the work “Impression, Sunrise” by Claude Monet, who is one of Kern’s favorite artists.
“It’s personal to me. It’s a tribute to one of my favorite artists, one of the first artists that I loved when I started becoming aware of painting and art history,” Kern said.
Jacob said 39 cardinal designs were submitted and the final 17 were decided by a design selection committee.
There were some artists we were hoping would submit a design, but didn’t, and then there were others who just kind of came out of nowhere and we said, ‘We didn’t know you could do this or wanted to do it ,'” Jacob said. “It was neat just having a variety of different people.”
Kern said the public’s reaction to the cardinals has been encouraging to him and the other artists involved in the project.
“It’s been great. Everybody wants to talk about the cardinals,” Kern said.
Downtown Marion, Inc. Manager Allen Wilson said the sculptures have been an “amazing” fit into the mission to recreate downtown Marion as a tourism, shopping, dining, and entertainment destination. He noted that there has been a significant uptick in visitors during the first half of 2022 and word about the cardinals is spreading.
“The visitors bureau had a huge stack of brochures with a map of where the cardinals are and they’re almost completely out,” Wilson said. “We’ve made the Ohio Road Trips Facebook page at least four or five times within the last couple of weeks, just by people driving here to look at them. They’ve seen that they’re here and they want to come check them out. It gets more people on the street. It gets more people on the sidewalks of downtown Marion, which is always what we’re looking for. It allows people to see we’re not the same downtown we were, we’re coming back to life.”
Wilson said many people visiting the monthly Third Thursdays street festival hosted by Downtown Marion, Inc. have expressed interest in seeing the cardinals.
“The visitors bureau and the Center Street Market both see an uptick in people asking for maps of where they can find all of the cardinals,” Wilson said. “They’re definitely drawing people during Third Thursdays and Second Saturdays that are going on downtown. People are flocking to see them.”
Following is the list of cardinals and where they are (or will be) located in the downtown area:
- “Zenburda” – Busby Park at Center and Prospect streets (Artist: Dianne Krumnow)
- “Impression: Cardinal” – Founders Park at Main and Church streets (Artist: Ben Kern)
- “Celebrating the Women of Marion” – Harding Centre, 267 W. Center St., corner of Orchard and Center streets (Artists: Amanda Adkins and Andrea Johnston)
- “Magical Gem” – Palace Theatre, 276 W. Center St. (Artist: Jane W. Nelson)
- “Gen. Francis Marion, The Swamp Fox” – Heritage Hall/Marion County Historical Society, 169 E. Church St. (Artist: Lou Graziani)
- “Life in Pieces” – Explore-It-Torium, 244 S. Main St. (Artist: Linda L. Smith)
- “Marion County Courthouse” – Marion County Courthouse, corner of Main and Center streets (Artist: Kevin Tackett)
- “Marion’s Peacekeepers” – Marion City Hall, 233 W. Center St. (Artist: Amanda Adkins)
- “Marion County Fair” – Marion County Building, 222 W. Center St., corner of Center and Oak streets (Artists: Amanda Adkins and Cindy Wood)
- “Seasons of a Buckeye” – United Church Homes, 170 E. Center St. (Artists: Ben Kern and Kelly Taylor)
- “Blue Skies Over Marion” – Fahey Bank, 127 N. Main St. (Artist: William Scott Obenour)
- “Fire Bird” – City of Marion Fire Department, Station #1, 186 S. Prospect St. (Artist: Amanda Adkins)
- “My Feathered Friend” – OhioHealth, 165 W. Center St., corner of Center and Prospect streets (Artists: Amanda Adkins and Bobbi Lapushansky)
- “Good Olde Marion Town” – Marion Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, 198 W. Center St. (Artists: Jane W. Nelson and Annette Montis)
- “Cardinal of Carnations” – Fisher Building, 107 N. Main St., corner of Main and Center streets (Artist: Amanda Adkins)
- “Oorang Indians” – southwest corner of State and Center streets (Artist: Kevin Tackett)
- “Redbird” – northwest corner of Church and Vine streets (Artist: Annette Montis)
For information about the Downtown Marion, Inc. Cardinal Project, go to www.downtownmarion.com.
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