By Dedra Cordle
Inspired by the magic of nature, local artist Rachel Pace found a calling in metal garden artwork. She started small with miniscule trinkets and then worked her way into taller sculptures that would beautify any garden. Now, she and her work have reached new heights.
One day last fall, Pace was approached by Patti Von Niessen, the event coordinator of Summer Jam Westgate. She asked Pace if she would be willing to create a sculpture that would become a permanent fixture at Westgate Park. Intrigued, she asked how big a sculpture they wanted. Von Niessen was hesitant to give her an answer but then she just blurted it out.
“I said I want it to be really big,” Von Niessen said with a laugh.
Originally, the artwork was slated to be an eight-foot tall piece, but when Pace went to the scrap yard to look for material, she found a frame that reached over 15 feet. She knew that was the one.
After reaching out to local metal fabricator Joe Lamothe to discuss the logistics of the tall piece, she decided upon a theme that matters to all: the plight of the monarch butterfly.
As a fan of the monarch butterfly, Pace has spent the past two years transforming her own garden into a sanctuary for the threatened species. She wanted to bring that same sense of wonder she received by looking at the monarchs that fluttered across her yard to the public through art.
She started drawing patterns in January and began assembling “On the Wings of Change” in March. It took her three months to complete her project and based on the reaction of the crowd that attending the public unveiling on July 8, it made quite an impression.
“It just jumps right out at you,” said Sarah Dalton, a member of Monarch Maniacs of Ohio. “It brings their plight to the public eye.”
Dalton, who recently retired as a senior naturalist at Blendon Woods Metro Park, said any type of awareness, whether it is through the park system, in the classroom, or in a piece of art, is good for the survival of the butterfly.
“It’s all about connecting through education,” she said.
Pace said that was primarily her intention with this public piece.
“I just wanted to bring awareness to the monarch,” she said.
Pace said they are iconic symbols whose population is rapidly declining due to the use of insecticides and the loss of their habitat.
She said if the public could take away anything from this sculpture, it would be to have the desire to plant milkweed, which is intrinsic to their continued survival.
Kristi Crissinger, who is a board member of the Friends of Westgate Park and the manager of the rain garden, said it is fitting that the monarch butterfly sculpture found its permanent place in a garden that was designed to attract all species of butterflies. She said she believes the sculpture will bring as much joy to the community as she gets knowing that monarch butterflies have found a safe place in Westgate Park.
For more information about the monarch butterfly and to learn how you can help conservation efforts, go to www. monarchwatch.org.