Giants add to Bernheim’s long history of using art to connect with nature

By Bernheim

Source: The Kentucky Standard
By Kacie Goode
March 2, 2019

Giants add to Bernheim’s long history of using art to connect with nature

Three giant sculptures being created by Danish artist Thomas Dambo have gained noticeable public attention on social media, but the new additions are only part of Bernheim Forest’s extensive history in using art to connect people with nature.

Work on “The Forest Giants in a Giant Forest” began about two weeks ago and Dambo formally unveiled the completion of the first giant, Little Nis, to media outlets on Wednesday. The other two sculptures, all made from recycled wood materials, will be completed before the end of the month.

“In our 90th anniversary, we wanted to do something big and that’s why we brought in Thomas Dambo,” said Bernheim’s Executive Director Dr. Mark Wourms, who is just as excited for the sculptures’ completion as the public.

“The imagery online has been viral, but it’s nothing like experiencing them yourself,” he said. “It’s a wonderful feeling of whimsy and mystery and creativity and art. There’s a little piece in the back of everyone’s mind that says ‘I’m still a child’ and these bring that out in everyone. That’s why they appeal from the youngest to the oldest.”

It’s that connection with people for which forest founder Isaac W. Bernheim strived when he purchased the land in 1929. He wanted Bernheim to be a place to discover the beauty of nature and artwork could pull people in.

“They get these deeper messages about how they can engage in nature and how they can do things in their home and in their yards that will help us mitigate climate change and be healthier populations as well,” Wourms said of what some of the art is meant to convey.

When it comes to The Forest Giants in a Giant Forest, the installation provides Bernheim a narrative to stress the importance of its 16,137 privately held acres, used for conservation and education.

“In this case, we are going to be able to talk about the huge size of Bernheim and why forest blocks are so important to water quality, to air quality, to the survival of biological species, from the tiniest snails all the way up to, in our case, golden eagles,” Wourms said.

The Giants are the third Sited@Bernheim site-specific art project the forest has hosted since 2012. The first project, Snake Hollow by Patrick Dougherty, featured an interactive sculpture made from willow saplings, which stood at the Visitor Center from April 2012 to November 2013. The second project, Earth Measure, was built by Louisville sculptor Matt Weir in October of 2012 and is a permanent art installation in the Big Prairie.

In addition to these Sited@Bernheim projects, the forest has also hosted artists in residencies for 39 years, inviting artists to temporarily live at the forest and create. The program has brought in painters, sculptors, architects, sound artists, photographers any many others from around the world to Kentucky.

And their work can, on occasion, bring in new visitors to the area, Wourms said, which has the potential to boost the local economy as they explore other offerings in the region, from wine and bourbon, to dining, historic site visits and shopping.

“We are very proud of the fact that Bernheim is an economic boom to this area. That we are an eco-tourism center, and because of that, we diversify this economy,” he said.

With the addition of the giants, forest officials hope to see an influx of visitors coming out to see the sculptures and discover what else the area has to offer. And for those who stumble upon the creations by accident, Wourms hopes they will be inspired.

“Art is a way to surprise people when they’re out here in our forest or in our meadow. It’s a way to inspire people to look again, understand what are they seeing and why are they seeing it. Art can convey some powerful messages, and that is very exciting to us.”

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