Schiller Park Hosts Jerzy Kedziora's Spellbinding Floating Sculptures
Since October, visitors to German Village’s Schiller Park have been captivated when looking up to the sky as they stroll. “Levitating” works of art are peppered throughout the historic park, injecting the landscape with a magical kind of energy.
Sculptures of posed human figures seem to float in midair in the temporary art installation Suspension: Balancing Art, Nature, and Culture. And not only can they be emotionally moving, they’re also literally moving. When a breeze stirs their thin cables, they sway, gently, in a symbiotic relationship with nature. Bare trees have transformed the display since the lush autumn when they were installed.
The figures—gymnasts, a golfer, a juggler, acrobats—are the brainchild of Polish sculptor Jerzy Jotka Kedziora, whose works are in public spaces around the world, including Warsaw, London and Dubai.
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Along with 19 pieces in Schiller, there are two each in Thurber Park and Livingston Park, and one in the Main Library. Suspension runs through March 1 and is presented by the Friends of Schiller Park in association with the Art & Balance Foundation of Poland.
Friends of Schiller Park trustee Katharine Moore recalls how the exhibit came here by way of serendipity and casual online browsing: “I was Googling and Pinteresting, looking at art displays in public parks, and I came across a photo of one of Jerzy Kedziora’s pieces, and it gave me a physical jolt of joy,” she says. “I had such a strong reaction to it.”
She learned the artist had a show in New York, and his studio asked if the Friends would consider having some pieces installed in Columbus after it ended. “Fast forward through commission hearings, insurance policies, city forestry reviews … and during the week of Oct. 21, six Polish visitors arrived in Columbus with a truck full of sculptures,” Moore says.
Kedziora, 72, was a first-time Columbus visitor. “What charmed me here more than anywhere else in the USA was kindness … and enthusiastic reception” by the hosts as well as by random people, such as dog walkers in the park, he writes from his home in Poland, using an interpreter to translate. “Maybe because this is the ‘status’ of Schiller Park, as a meeting place for the local community, everyone feels good here—people and animals.”
Kedziora explains the inspiration for his balancing figures. “In the ’90s, I was working on the Portrait of a Pole from the Transformation Times, and at some point I needed a man standing on the edge. The rope became its symbol.” He assumed it would be a brief phase, but the idea of balance drew him in for good. The public sculptures reflect his conviction that art “must get out of museums and reach the people.”
Schiller Park opened in 1867 and has long been an outdoor gallery, with a bronze rendering of poet Friedrich Schiller, the iconic Umbrella Girl statue and shining public gardens. “We have to always be looking for ways to keep that fresh, without junking up the park,” Moore says. The Friends invested about $10,000 to bring Kedziora’s sculptures here, and while she says some fans are clamoring to keep them, it would be too expensive. The group might pursue raising funds to purchase one.
A focal point and community favorite is The Rower, just above and reflected in Schiller Pond. Nearby, Woman-Bell and Man-Bell honor Polish revolutionaries who fought against communism.
Moore says she was surprised by the overwhelming interest in the sculptures. “I knew the work was really wonderful, but people have driven from all over the state to come to see them, and I have run into several dozen people who were making a day of going to each location.”
It is surprising how inanimate forms, crafted in resin, can bring a park to life.
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The Friends of Schiller Park group is hosting free guided walking tours of the exhibit at 2 p.m. Sundays through the end of February. Gather at the park’s Third Street entrance beneath the Winged sculpture. Can’t make it to the parks to see the sculptures? Take a virtual tour at columbus-ohio-usa.jerzykedziora.com.