Decatur native David Smith was a nationally acclaimed artist who pioneered creation of abstract welded metal sculptures from the 1930s-1960s, according to the Guggenheim Museum in New York ( www.Guggenheim.org).
Though his career was cut short by a fatal car accident in 1965, his work continues to inspire eight artists honoring and advancing his legacy in Decatur's first Sculpture Walk.
“Were trying to create awareness of the history Decatur has involving sculpture,” said artist Greg Mendez of Fort Wayne.
In conjunction with the community's Kekionga Festival on Aug. 24-26, the Decatur Sculpture Walk begins at 6 p.m. Aug. 23 along the historic Second Street business district in downtown Decatur. Eight outdoor sculptures and four indoor sculptures will be on display until summer 2013.
Made from materials such as welded steel, mahogany, walnut and fiberglass, the 12 original pieces vary in subject matter and range in size from 20 inches to 10 feet tall.
Most of the artwork is made by local artists including Greg Mendez and Jesse Costello of Fort Wayne, Curtis Rose and Aubris Taylor of Decatur, and Larry Wiedman of Huntington.
Three artists from Missouri also will have work on display.
Mendez says the Sculpture Walk hopes to retain most of its sculptors year after year so the public can see a progression in each artist's work.
Mendez, who helped start the Sculpture Walk, is displaying two outdoor pieces and one indoor piece.
After studying under Fort Wayne sculptor Cary Shafer for about six years, Mendez adopted his own modernized style by welding stock steel rods.
Mendez has seven art pieces on display in three western states. His first local piece — a large medicinal symbol that looks like an angel at certain angles — was installed in June 2011 in front of Adams Memorial Hospital in Decatur.
During the 2011 Decatur Kekionga Festival, the Adams Public Library System hosted a sculpture exhibit by Mendez to celebrate the city's 175th anniversary.
Library director Kelly Ehinger also commissioned Mendez for a sculpture to commemorate longtime teacher and librarian Dianne Linn. When Mendez installed the sculpture “It Must Be a Good Book” on a pedestal outside the library in late October 2011, Ehinger says it generated a lot of community interest, which led Mendez and local leaders to begin planning Decatur's first Sculpture Walk.
Mendez says the Sculpture Walk was modeled after SculptureWalk Sioux Falls in Sioux Falls, S.D., which displayed his work and the work of two Missouri artists who are also participating in Decatur Sculpture Walk.
Local woodcarver Larry Wiedman has visited two sculpture walks in Wyoming. As director of environmental sciences at the University of Saint Francis, he is Mendez's former professor, and he was excited when Mendez asked him to apply to be an artist for the Decatur Sculpture Walk.
Wiedman has two pieces in the Sculpture Walk: an outdoor tortoise sculpture made from 200-year-old walnut wood and an indoor stingray sculpture made from 150-year-old poplar wood.
Mendez says the goal of the sculpture walk is fostering beauty, creativity and originality in the city.
“Culture adds another dimension to the outdoor public experience,” said community volunteer Trois Hart. “The Sculpture Walk creates the opportunity for public conversation.”
One block away from the Sculpture Walk, the Adams Public Library is hosting an artist lecture at 2 p.m. Aug. 23, where the artists will talk about their sculptures and answer questions before the sculpture unveiling at 6 p.m.
Ehinger expects the lecture to last about two hours, during which time the library will also offer children's entertainment, including the opportunity to create simple sculptures to take home, Ehinger said.
Walking maps will be provided to guide Sculpture Walk visitors who are asked to vote for their favorite sculpture by Nov. 30, according to a news release. The People's Choice award will be given in December.
All sculptures are original works that have been created in the last three years. Only Northeast Indiana artists are eligible for it.
According to Mendez, the Sculpture Walk plans to purchase the People's Choice sculpture and keep it on display to increase Decatur's public art collection.
The other sculptures will also be for sale, but they will stay on display until next year's event. Some proceeds will help underwrite future sculpture walks and buy permanent art for the community.
“Once these sculptures are up downtown, we're hoping the businesses like them, purchase them and donate them back to city.”