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I love walking at Mercy Park in Joplin. Located on the site of the former St. John’s Hospital, the park offers a gorgeous lake with fountains, a walking trail, native grasses, flowers, trees and plants, a butterfly mural and a memorial pavilion atop a hill.
Looking around, it’s hard to remember the destruction that befell this place as a result of the May 22, 2011 EF5 tornado that leveled a third of the city. St. John’s Hospital lay in the direct path of the monster tornado that ultimately claimed 161+ lives.
I am grateful for the reclamation of this land and the restoration of this wounded space. Peace and serenity flows through the park, now. Beauty and whimsy abound. Families stroll together. Children laugh as they race by on skates or bicycles. Dogs trot happily alongside their humans.
There is something new to delight us here in this magical place. Come walk with me, virtually, and tour the sculpture garden at Mercy Park.
Beauty from Chaos
Nine years ago, this land was part of the St. John’s Hospital complex. On May 22 much of the medical community was destroyed, along with the hospital.
Renamed Mercy, the hospital rebuilt in a new location south of Joplin. They donated the land to the city. A new elementary school was built on the southern section, to replace two that were lost. The second project was a pavilion atop a grassy knoll, situated in the exact spot that the hospital chapel once occupied. Phase three involved the construction of Mercy Park.
St. John’s Hospital provided healing for the community. I love that Mercy Park continues that long-held tradition. The park offers healing on multiple levels. It soothes the soul, inspires creativity, encourages the body to move and provides places for quiet reflection.
The sculptures bring enchantment to the park, something that calls deeply to me.
The Sculpture Garden at Mercy Park
A two year project, the sculpture garden at Mercy Park is a joint effort of Joplin’s two rotary clubs. The idea for the garden came to Bob Headlee, chairman of the Rotary Sculpture Garden Board, after a visit to a similar garden in Loveland, CO. That garden displays 164 sculptures.
The nine sculptures at Mercy Park, all donated, are just the beginning. Over the next month signs will go up near each sculpture. And eventually more sculptures will join the current works of art.
As the sun set last night, I had my first opportunity to stroll around the lake and see the new additions to the park. Here they are, in the order that I saw them.
I am enchanted by this fun sculpture, created by Angela Mia De La Vega, and donated by Barbara and Jim Hicklin. A girl stands upon the world, with arms outstretched and head tipped back.
I love the feeling of joyful abandon captured in her pose. And I appreciate that she stands on the world, arms open wide to receive. This first sculpture made me smile and created anticipation for the other works of art.
Created by Tim Cherry and donated by Sharon and Lance Beshore, this playful sculpture caught my eye immediately. Connected to my word for next year, curiosity, are the Alice in Wonderland stories. Rabbits are popping up everywhere as I am in this transition phase between the word and symbol for this year and the new ones for 2020.
I don’t think my symbol for next year is the rabbit. No, I believe it’s another symbol, that I’ll share later. However, the rabbit connects to the white rabbit in the Wonderland stories and reminds me to follow curiosity. Not coincidentally, it’s curiosity that drew me to explore the park and enjoy the sculptures.
This sculpture is gorgeous and the setting for it ideal. Created by Rosiland Cook and donated by Harry M. Cornell, Jr., this young lady holds in her hand a water lily with a lotus blossom. I at first thought the sculpture was a mermaid. On closer inspection, I spied her legs.
I could sit and stare at this exquisite statue and the lake behind it for hours. The lotus reminds me of a crown, which ties in with my symbol for this year.
I can see these fun sculptures, which count as two of the nine, from 26th Street as I drive by. And the sight makes me laugh. There are now giraffes at Mercy Park, and how whimsical they are!
Donated by Harry M. Cornell, Jr., the artist for these beauties has not yet been identified. I’ll update this post with the artist’s name when I discover who created them.
The Bird Feeder
This is another beautiful sculpture, of a young girl feeding a bird as it perches on her raised hand. The artist is Rosalind Cook and this piece is donated by Cornell as well.
Something about this work of art makes me think of fairies dancing in the Shakespeare play, A Midsummer’s Night Dream. I can almost hear the sweet notes from a pan pipe!
Resting Big Cat
I smiled over this sculpture too. A child sat laughing on the big cat’s back as I approached. I’m grateful that he darted off with his dad, so I could take a photo. As a “cat mom”, I could appreciate the fine lines of this sleek beast.
Donated by Cornell, this sculpture is a work of art by Michael Boyce.
These stunning sculptures are amazing. Created by Michael Boyce, and donated by Cornell, the realism of these two pieces caused me to walk around the sculptures and study them from all angles.
I love these deer. They are in flight, as if startled from their hiding spot. The artist certainly captured the animals’ grace in his art.
View the Sculpture Garden at Mercy Park
If you live in the Joplin area, you simply must take a walk around the lake at Mercy Park and see the sculptures for yourself. As I walked, I met a woman who was as appreciative of the sculptures as I am.
We stood and talked for a few minutes. She was seeing the sculptures for the first time too and expressed genuine amazement. In her opinion, the sculptures bring a unique quality to the park, and even to Joplin, making the city feel bigger and more metropolitan. I understand her sentiments and share them.
Gazing across the park, after sunset, I felt tears sting my eyes. What a transformation this property has undergone. So much has changed. And yet, so much remains the same. This is a sanctuary, a place of rest and healing still.
And now, it is home to nine magnificent sculptures that ignite hope and joy in my heart. I am enchanted, indeed.
Books about the Joplin Tornado. Click on photos to order.
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