Sykesville artist Virginia Sperry will unveil her welded steel sculpture "The Great Blue Heron" at Piney Run Park on April 12. The project was made possible with a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council with additional funds provided by the Carroll County Arts Council and Piney Run Park Recreation and Conservation Council.
"Because this was a commission for a piece going in a park close to me, it was much more a labor of love," Sperry said. "The trust that was given to me was pretty amazing."
The sculpture's unveiling was rescheduled from Thursday, March 22 due to snow. The public is invited to the unveiling at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 12 at Piney Run Park in Sykesville. Reservations are required and can be made by calling the Carroll Arts Center at 410-848-7272.
According to a Carroll Arts Center news release, the bird will be located just offshore in Piney Run Reservoir near the boathouse. An information plaque will be located near the piece to provide more details about the native species.
Carroll County's Recreation and Parks director Jeff Degitz said he is "very excited" about the installation.
"It will be a great addition to the park," he said.
Carroll County Arts Council executive director Sandy Oxx said the organization has been "trying very hard not to make everything we do happen in the building."
"When this Maryland State Arts Council public art grant opportunity came up, we knew we wanted to do something somewhere else in the county," she said. "We love that it's a well-visited venue and that the artist lives close by."
Oxx said she's "very enamored with Sperry's work."
"It's a really nice balance of anatomically correct with a whimsical aesthetic," she said. "It has a rich texture and it will age beautifully."
After choosing to make a Great Blue Heron for the project, Sperry spent several weeks doing extensive research on the birds. The artist welded rebar and steel rods together to make the armature and then covered the frame with hand-cut steel "feathers" which give the piece a rich texture that will change as it ages.
"I wanted to make a sculpture that had an impact," Sperry explained. "I did research on herons that are about to take off and fly. It's one of the ways in which I put a gesture of movement into the piece."
Sperry said every project has its challenges and this one had more to do with the physics of the bird.
"I don't know why herons don't break their legs more often," said Sperry, who has fabricated metal since 2003. "A lot of work went into making it as strong as possible."
Sperry worked closely with the maintenance staff of Piney Run Park to design a set of pilings to which the sculpture would be attached. Construction of the sculpture began in the spring of 2017.
Sperry said she's inspired by many things.
"I'm inspired by shape, movement, pattern, texture, nature, personality and storytelling," she said. "I like to pick a moment that people might relate to when they see an animal and put the animal in that pose."
Sometimes, the animal is too real.
"I made a life-size brown bear and put it next to my driveway and the UPS guy thought it was real!" she recalled.
Sperry said the installation is a wonderful step in her artistic career. Her next studio and sculpture garden tour is in June. For more information, visit www.virginiasperry.com.