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'SCULPTURE TRAIL' AIMS FOR ARTFUL TRIPS THROUGH NATURE

LEWISTON - The Lewiston Council on the Arts is working on a "sculpture trail" that will combine art and nature along the scenic Seaway Trail.

The sculpture route, much of it following River Road and Center Street, was the brainchild of Eva Nicklas, the council's artistic director, and Irene Rykaszewski, its executive director.

While the two were bicycling in Joseph Davis State Park several years ago, Rykaszewski noticed an expanse of green space that appeared a great location for sculpture.

On a later occasion, the two were walking through Artpark when they came upon a discarded piece of sculpture from Artpark's discontinued artist-in-residence program.

They got permission from the sculptor, Tom Mullany of Virginia, to place the sculpture, "Spirit of Victory," in Joseph Davis State Park. The sculpture trail had begun.

"Everyone was supportive of the project," Rykaszewski noted. "It was an encouraging experience."

People were so supportive that we felt that we could do it again and again, and again," Nicklas said.

Two other sculptures soon followed: Noted Buffalo sculptor Larry Griffis was commissioned to create "Bug" next to Lewiston Public Library on South Eighth Street. The large metal sculpture, sometimes known as "Library Bug," stands 6 feet tall and has eight legs.

It is the last major sculpture by Griffis, who died Feb. 17, 2000.

With a matching grant from the Niagara County Environmental Fund, the Council on the Arts is overseeing the development of a park around the sculpture. It will feature plantings and more sculpture - benches by Buffalo sculptor John Puccio. Each will be a unique artwork, colorful insects decorating the arms.

Puccio also created "Tango," a large abstract figurative sculpture, once placed at the new home of the Lewiston Art Center on Ridge Street and now located near the Lewiston Senior Services Center on River Road.

"When once there was nothing, we now have a special place because of a piece of sculpture," Nicklas said of the sites along the trail.

"We have tried to thoughtfully place the sculpture in order to make it convenient for people to pull off the road if in cars, or make access to pedestrians or cyclists so that the pieces can be fully appreciated," Rykaszewski added.

Both agree the project would have been impossible without the support of the Town and Village of Lewiston and the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which donated manpower and equipment.

"It's been a perfect example of a small community working together to make things happen," Nicklas said. "It works because we all share the vision of Lewiston as an artistic community."

The sculpture trail will include the Underground Station at First Presbyterian Church on Cayuga Street, which was placed by the Castellani Art Museum in commemoration of Thomas Tryon, a village resident who was active in the Underground Railroad in Lewiston.

The trail also will lead to works by a group of Sanborn sculptures: the Mark Griffis metal sculpture "The Bandleader" at West Street Elementary School; "The Falcon," by Rick Pratt, at Niagara-Wheatfield Library; "White Rabbit," by Pratt, at Sanborn Public Library; and "Sacajawea," by Pratt, at the Sanborn Historical Museum, as well as "Woodfalls," by Jon Brooks of New Hampshire, at the end of Onondaga Street, behind the Red Brick School in the Village of Lewiston.

"Lewiston is fortunate enough to have two Griffis sculptures," Nicklas said, citing "The Pod" at Stella Niagara on River Road. At the time of his death, the council was about to commission Griffis to create a bird sculpture for the Lewiston Waterfront.

Also in the works is a sculpture courtyard or park behind the Lewiston Art Center. The Council on the Arts hopes to commission a water sculpture for the location.

"We hope to turn a parking lot into a gathering place for the community as well as tourists," Rykaszewski said. "It would be an asset to the community, a place for performance art, exhibits, music, a place to disseminate information about current events in the community."

Nicklas said the vision calls for extending the sculpture trail into Youngstown and Niagara Falls, which could take five years.

After removal of part of the Robert Moses Parkway, the women also envision sculpture along the gorge.