Outdoor Art Offers Reflections on the Yahara River

Outdoor Art Offers Reflections on the Yahara River
A sculpture by Chris Murphy

Hey, man, good idea, I thought while glimpsing a figure lingering on a bridge over the Yahara River. The view he was enjoying certainly looked beautiful this morning, but that wasn’t my only reason for visiting the parkway.

Rather, it was Reflections on the Banks of the Yahara River, a new exhibition of five outdoor art installations along the waterway.

The works are the result of a public call for submissions and the creative and organizational energy of neighborhood residents Helen Sarakinos and Jessica Becker. The pair wanted to celebrate and call attention to the river and adjacent slice of the isthmus running from Lake Mendota to Lake Monona.

The pale yellow man resting on the bike bridge at Jenifer Street seems to be doing just that. By day, the sculpture by Chris Murphy looks out on the flowing river below; by night, he’s an illuminated form hovering over the water.

Nearby, Brenda Gratton offers a mosaic that reflects on the river. It’s positioned for paddlers passing by to see—becoming both “observers and participants,” as the artist states.

Across the river and a block down, at the intersection of South Thornton Avenue and Rutlege Street, is Thomas Ferrella‘s installation in which long pieces of red willow hang gracefully from a tree.

On the opposite end of the isthmus, John Miller‘s silhouettes of people and animals gaze out at scenes in Tenney Park. And near Burr Jones field between East Johnson Street and East Washington Avenue, Amy Wencel has created a sculpture made of boat parts.

While intended to highlight the Yahara River parkway—and they certainly do—these five works of art also prompt contemplation on a range of ideas, from reflection and viewing to history and change to energy and motion.

Reflections on the Banks of the Yahara River runs through June 15. For more information, visit yaharareflections.com.