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Art on the Rail Trail

Updated: 5 days ago

We were fortunate to have a chance to talk with artist Jenni Ward and learn about the planned installation of her artwork on the Westside Rail Trail.

What significance does the Rail Trail hold to you and how does that integrate into your artwork?

The Rail Trail runs right behind where my studio is located on the westside of Santa Cruz and I use it multiple times a week to walk my dog. I love that it's used by everyone; walking, biking, skating or rolling through. Eventually, it will be an artery to navigate through the county, and as an avid hiker, I can't wait until all of the sections are completed. I was really excited to get approval to place my work in a spot that I frequent regularly.

This project looks like it takes a big collaborative effort, can you tell us about the team and how the process works?

Yes, there are a lot of helping hands to make this project happen. It started with a call for proposals from the city of Santa Cruz for a pilot program called the CityArts Recovery Design Program (CARD). Over a nearly two year period, I went through multiple rounds of proposals and approvals with the city arts commission before final approval was granted. There is also collaboration with the Regional Transportation Commission and private property owners throughout the process. In addition, Rbhu, a structural engineering firm known for artworks at Burning Man, offers grants each year for pro-bono engineering services, and my project was the winner this year. It's been a great opportunity for me to work with them and I'm so grateful for their generous give-back grant program.

For my end of fabrication and installation, I'll be working with 2 other local artists, Kirk McNeill and Travis Adams, to help fabricate the pieces, as well as a team of volunteers who have skills and experience in the construction industry to help install these pieces. I always say it takes a village to raise an artist, and that's certainly true in this case.

What inspired your design for this location?

My inspiration for this particular installation comes from my exploration of the natural world, and my curiosity about identifying plants, especially the edible ones. As an amateur forager, every hike in the woods has become like a trip to the grocery store for me. The sculptures are based on the structure of fennel flowers, one of the most recognized edibles that grow in California along the roads and rails. I have used umbel shaped flowers (flowers that bloom in the shape of an umbrella) in my work for a number of years now, inspired by the structure of the plants and their beauty. The installation is called A Feast Of Flowers, and I hope this installation celebrates the human connection to the natural world that surrounds us.

Public art and art in nature is so important, what do you want this piece to symbolize and bring to the Rail Trail?

It is my hope that whimsical oversized flowers will create a fun and dramatic impact for the area, will draw locals and tourists alike outside to connect with nature, learn about local plants and of course take a moment to stop and smell the flowers.

How can people learn more and stay updated?

I'll be posting photos of the progress on my Instagram feed as well as blog posts on my website. Joining my mailing list is definitely the best way to stay updated on this project and all of my other creative shenanigans.


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