In the midst of Saturday afternoon’s beautiful weather, multiple Tree Streets community members gathered to watch an event four years in the making: the placing of the Cycle of Support statue in Veterans Park in front of South Side Elementary School. The statue, which was designed and created by artists Nikki Pynn and Barry Keller, consists of two large white trees placed side by side, with a mosaic art piece in between and bicycle wheels on top of some of the tree branches. The wheels, which are attached in a way so they will spin with the wind, make the sculpture kinetic.
According to Virginia Buda, director and founder of the organization behind the sculptures, Artlandia, the project is a first for the community.
“This is the first public work of art in a Johnson City neighborhood and one of the first pieces of kinetic artwork to be publicly displayed in the TriCities,” Buda said.
Buda said there were several reasons she had for wanting to build the statue. Buda said most importantly she wanted to advocate for healthy living activities, hence the bicycle wheels on top of the statue. Buda said that when living in a town like Johnson City, where so many citizens utilize bikes, there should be a way to honor that and encourage others to do the same.
It was no coincidence the statue was placed in Veterans Park. While promoting a healthy and active lifestyle was the main purpose, honoring veterans was also a reason behind the statue’s creation, since it will draw attention to the park.
Altogether, Buda said the project cost around $14,500, most of which was collected through grassroots fundraising. Members of the community raised the money, and many said it was a great way for the neighborhood kids, whose school the statue was placed at, to get involved with the project.
Wanda Buda, Virginia Buda’s mother-in-law and grandmother to a student at South Side, said she believed the statue would instill a sense of accomplishment in young students. “It is their school and their statue,” she said.
Virginia Buda said she hoped the project brought the community a little closer together.
“This was all through grassroots programming. The bigger picture here was to bring the community together and get the kids involved,” she said. Virginia Buda also said she hoped this project could teach anyone who sees it that art can be, and say, anything they want it to.
Virginia Buda said there are plans in place for a dedication event at the school for the statue. With enough backing, the event can have live music, help local kids get even more involved in the project, and hopefully bring in some state legislators to look at the work being done in one of Johnson City’s most historic and tight-knit neighborhoods.