In the next few weeks, cyclists and pedestrians on the Wolf River Greenway will be able to view the Wolf River on land and in the sky — sort of.
Artist Colin Kidder's 100-foot-long, 16-foot-tall model of the Wolf River will be installed near Shady Grove and Walnut Grove within the next month or so, weather permitting. The massive steel sculpture will be visible to cars traveling along Humphreys as well.
"It'll be a couple hundred feet from the Wolf, so I wanted to play off that. I wanted to make something suggesting a flow of current. I wanted it to show the full power of the river but still be graceful," Kidder said.
The sculpture will be the first of several public art projects along the Wolf River Greenway, a multi-use paved trail that follows the path of the Wolf and will eventually stretch 36 miles from Collierville to Mud Island. Currently, the Greenway stretches about 2.5 miles from Walnut Grove to the Germantown.
Construction on the remainder of the trail will be done in segments. The Wolf River Conservancy (WRC) broke ground on a 20-mile Memphis stretch of the trail last September, and they plan to have the entire path constructed by 2019.
The "Raised River" sculpture will be Kidder's largest public art project. He was also involved in creating Crosstown's "Beacon" sculpture with sculptor Eli Gold. That sculpture, an elevated disco ball made from repurposed bicycle wheels, was installed in 2012.
"The UrbanArt Commission did a call to artists, and I didn't expect to get it. I was just a kid in art school," Kidder said.
But UrbanArt awarded Kidder the project. That was five years ago, and he said it's taken "an embarrassingly long time" to wrap it up due to some unexpected delays and sheer size of the project. Artist Tylur French of Youngblood Studio is heading up the fabrication of the sculpture's steel pieces. French created the bike gate in Overton Park and recently painted the mural on the Broad Avenue water tower.
Kidder said he'd love to have the sculpture installed in about two weeks, but realistically, he said it may take as long as six weeks due to the sculpture's size.
Two more public art projects are planned for the Wolf River Greenway so far. Artist Lester Merriweather is creating a mural for the underpass at Walnut Grove and Humphreys. Lauren Kennedy, executive director of the UrbanArt Commission, said that may be ready this fall.
"He's painting the columns of the underpass with a gradient color that goes from orange to yellow to pink, and the mural will feature a pixelated image of a biker. There are sections of it on each column, so you'll get this cool optical effect as you pass by it," Kennedy said.
In a couple months, Kennedy said UrbanArt will begin seeking an artist for a third greenway project — a sculpture in Kennedy Park, where the WRC broke ground last fall for construction on the next segment of greenway.
Bob Wenner, greenway coordinator of the WRC, said they'd like to see more public art projects along the path as it's constructed over the next few years.
"We envision the use of public art as another amenity to add to this corridor of opportunity, to make people say, 'Hey, have you seen this sculpture? Let's go hike back there and check it out,'" Wenner said. "It's about trying to make the greenway a special place to de-stress."