The Rapidian

Sculpture Garden - Finding Quiet Space

Underwriting support from:
A joyful St. Francis of Assisi

A joyful St. Francis of Assisi /Sculptor, Mic Carlson

We often carry with us a deep longing for a quiet space away, where we can see the beauty of the wilderness and listen to the songs of nature--a place of renewal and peace where we can take time out to hear the voice of God in our lives. A site such as this will now become a reality through the collaborative efforts of Instruments of Hope, Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids, Mic Carlson, David Willis and Bill Cox, with the assistance of several other professionals and volunteers.

Instruments of Hope (IOH), a non-profit organization under the direction of IOH President Mark Siegrist, will be developing and installing a nature/sculpture garden for prayer and meditation on the western edge of the Marywood property. This tract of land is part of the campus owned by the Dominican Sisters ~ GrandRapids  The Sisters feel blessed that their property has been chosen as the site for this ambitious project.

The garden will be maintained in its natural woodland setting on the grounds with several small sculptures of Saint Francis of Assisi placed at various locations throughout the area. The first phase, expected to begin in the spring of 2010, will include the installation of twelve sculptures, located east of the natural creek that runs through the property. Timeframes for the second phase have not yet been established, but will have an additional number of sculptures placed throughout the designated area. The currently existing indigenous plants and ecosystem will be carefully preserved and incorporated into the garden's design.

Landscape architect for the project is Bill Cox, of Cox Medendorp Olson Architects , whose firm designed the centerpiece greenhouse for Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.

Well-known Grand Rapids artist,  Mic Carlson ,  is the sculptor of the Saint Francis works of art. Over the past several years, Carlson has been drawn to Saint Francis and the Franciscan tradition of a longing for peace. His sculptures, which have been shown worldwide, demonstrate the Franciscan hunger for peace and present a visual confirmation of the artist's devotion to Saint Francis.

It is not unusual that a Dominican community incorporates a sculpture garden featuring statues of Saint Francis. Francis and Dominic were contemporaries in the 13th century, meeting one another in Rome around 1215. At the time of their meeting, Dominic was 45 and Francis was 34 years of age. According to legend, Dominic had a vision of a beggar who would do great things for the Faith. Dominic met the beggar the next day. He embraced him and said, "You are my companion and must walk with me. If we hold together, no earthly power can withstand us." Saint Francis of Assisi was that beggar.

There is currently a life-sized bronze statue of Saint Dominic on the Marywood campus that was installed during the 2008 Dominican Days celebration. The eyes of the Dominic statue gaze out over the area that will become the woodland sculpture garden. (This statue was crafted by Grand Rapids Dominican Sister Phyllis Mrozinski, artist in residence.) Considering the history of Dominic and Francis, it seems appropriate that their images stand together at Marywood, motherhouse of the Sisters of Saint Dominic.

Some potential uses for the natural woodland garden setting will be meditation, prayer, nature study and quiet events in keeping with the spirit of the garden. This will be a location where people may find the peaceful embrace of God's creations. A paved path with benches and sculptures placed at intervals will enhance the beauty and assure accessibility for all. The Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids advocate for the care of all creation and pray that this small, quiet space will bring peace to many for years to come.

By Rosemary Steers, Communications Specialist - Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids

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