Community Arts & Culture

Southern Community Park

Laura Haddad and Tom Drugan
Seattle WA

June 2009

Natural materials found on site

Southern Community Park
15/501 south of Southern Village
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An award winning series of artworks entitled Elemental Landscape by artists Laura Haddad & Tom Drugan are integrated into the design of the new Southern Community Park, located next to Southern Village, southwest of Highway 15-501.  Southern Community Park is 72 acres in size, over half of which remains in a natural state of mixed hardwood and conifer forests with flowing permanent and seasonal creeks.  In addition to the public art, the park features an off-leash dog area, picnic shelters, basketball courts, an inline hockey court, soccer/athletic fields, a children’s play area, disc golf, a meadow area, restrooms and trails that include the extension of the paved Fan Branch Greenway Trail and natural woodland surface trails.  The public art was funded by Orange County and the Town of Chapel Hill’s Percent for Art Program, established in 2002, which allocates 1 percent of selected capital project expenditures for art.  Haddad and Drugan worked closely with OBS Landscape Architects to integrate the art into the park design.  Most art elements were built as part of the park construction by Hy Tech, the general contractor.  Two more specialized pieces ("Fire" and "Fauna") were constructed by the Artists and local craftsman Luke Barrow, of Rustic Garden Structures.  In 2010 Elemental Landscape was recognized by The Americans For The Arts' Public Art Network as being one of the country's top 40 public art projects.
map of art features
Elemental Landscape is a series of environmental art installations that reveal unique phenomena of the site and region.  Where possible, on-site materials were utilized, including boulders and trees salvaged during construction.  Each installation uses a circular form to mark special places within the park.  The repeating form provides a cohesive rhythm as one moves through the landscape and ties the art to archetypical earthworks.  Each installation is activated by a particular element (earth, air, fire, water, flora, or fauna) -using, exposing, or enclosing some essence of that particular element.  These forces make the artworks dynamic and changing over the seasons, over time, and in different weather and light conditions.
Goddess Rock
References to historic and cultural places in and around Chapel Hill are also made through the art.  At each installation an etched granite marker stone names the element that distinguishes it.  Also on the marker is the name of a culturally significant place in the Chapel Hill region that shares the element, and a directional arrow pointing to it (for example, the “Earth” marker stone references a historic iron mine).  These markers serve to bridge the site of the park with its regional context.  There are six elemental art installations including earth, air, fire, water, flora and fauna.  "Air", "Earth", and "Water" are located in the open areas near the park entry. “Air” is a circle of large rocks set within a ring of tall grasses that catch dew and move in the breeze.  “Earth” is a conical earth mound topped in turf. “Water” is a boulder-ringed wetlands bowl that collects and filters the park’s water runoff through plants.  "Flora", "Fauna" and "Fire" are set within the woods and accessed by small paths off the Greenway Trail.  “Flora” is a composition of four planted rings whose different species show unique seasonal attributes and draw attention to seasonal changes.  “Fauna” consists of four sculpted cedar posts, on the tops of which are mounted birdhouses created by Scroggs Elementary School students.  “Fire” includes a sculptural cedar ladder fused to a tree, as well as a series of plexiglass panels hanging in the surrounding tree canopy that cast colored and reflected sunlight onto the forest floor.
      Fire Ladder     stone entry to Air Circle
Complimenting the elemental art works are “Pine Datum,” “Oak Datum,” “Goddess Rock,” and a series of stone cairns.  Each datum uses cut logs (one all of pine, the other all of oak) embedded in the ground to create sunken circular spaces.  Over time, the wood of two installations will decay at different rates, creating a comparative sculptural juxtaposition.  The stacked stone cairns, made of boulders unearthed from the site during construction, mark trail entrances or gateways into the park.  The “Goddess Rock,” set in a plaza between “Water” and “Earth,” is a tall boulder standing on end that marks the axial relationship between these two central Elemental Landscape features.
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