It started as an idea to honor a man. It grew into a celebration of spirit and community.
Longtime local artist Diana Thornhill-Miller's iris-shaped, stainless steel sculpture “New Bloom” sprouted this week in the Meyers Park area at the northeast entry to Parkview Field off Jefferson Boulevard.
The “seed” for the sculpture, Thornhill-Miller said, was the death in April 2000 of her husband, local architect and artist Jim Miller.
The couple and their company, Omni Art Design, which they formed in 1980, are well known for creating many large art sculptures on display in local public and corporate buildings, such as the Allen County Public Library, Arts United Center, Auer Center for Arts and Culture, and Fox Island County Park nature center.
After Jim's death, their son, Brandon, suggested the family give a gift of beauty to Fort Wayne in Jim's memory, she said. It took a few years for her to settle on the flower as the perfect example of beauty, art, creativity and innovation.
She then narrowed her focus to the iris, a tall plant with a large, showy bloom.
“I think, structurally, it is one of the most beautiful,” she said.
“Iris” also refers to a part of the eye and vision.
“That (vision) is what a city that values the arts has,” added Thornhill-Miller, who was born in Los Angeles, grew up in San Jose and moved to Fort Wayne in 1965.
She also sees the sculpture as a symbol of the growth and blossoming of creativity and innovation taking place now in Fort Wayne.
Donations in memory of Jim Miller and other arts lovers and fundraising by friend and “New Bloom” committee chair Dorothy Kittaka have paid for the entire project, said Thornhill-Miller, who since has remarried. The committee also worked to find a central location to install the sculpture.
The art piece stands nearly 25 feet tall, with the bloom about 9 feet tall and 5 feet in diameter, said Mark Slater, project manager for Gensic Creative Metals of Fort Wayne.
The company on West Main Street helped Thornhill-Miller turn her ideas into the final result. Slater; company owner Dan Lomont; his son, Andrew; and employees Craig Wasson and Ron Britton all worked this week to install the sculpture at Parkview Field.
It has been a challenging project, Slater said, because each piece of the flower had to be cut, formed, polished and welded together.
When the installation is finished, a dirt mound will surround the base of the sculpture, Thornhill-Miller said.
The mound eventually will be planted with irises. Because iris grow in many areas of the world, she envisions this planting being the “mother bed” from which iris plants can be exchanged with visitors from other nations, beginning with Fort Wayne's sister cities of Takaoka, Japan; Gera, Germany; Plock, Poland; and Taizhou, China.
The piece also is designed to come alive at night, with one programmable LED light inside the bloom and eight others throwing light on it from around the flower bed beneath it, Thornhill-Miller said.
“I think it is the responsibility of any artist to use the technology of our time,” she said.
And there well beyond the centerfield wall, she hopes “New Bloom” will be a lasting tribute to both a man and the arts in Fort Wayne.