Sculpture Garden at Mercy Park

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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.

Sculpture Garden at Mercy Park Title Meme

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.

St John's Hosptial Before and After
St John’s Hospital, before the tornado, and after.

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.

Joyful Empowerment
Sculpture Garden at Mercy Park…Joyful Empowerment

Joyful Empowerment

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.

Rabbit Reach Sculpture
Sculpture Garden at Mercy Park…Rabbit Reach.

Rabbit Reach

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.

Water Lily Sculpture at Mercy Park
Sculpture Garden at Mercy Park…Water Lily.

Water Lily

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.

Standing Giraffes at Mercy Park
Sculpture Garden at Mercy Park…Standing Giraffes

Standing Giraffes

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 at Mercy Park
Sculpture Garden at Mercy Park…The Bird Feeder

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 Sculpture
Sculpture Garden at Mercy Park…Resting Big Cat

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.

Whitetail Deer Sculptures at Mercy Park
Sculpture Garden at Mercy Park…Whitetail Deer

Whitetail Deer

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.

Mercy Park Joplin MO
Mercy Park, located at 26th & Maiden Lane, Joplin Missouri

Books about the Joplin Tornado. Click on photos to order.

 

 

 

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56 Replies to “Sculpture Garden at Mercy Park”

  1. What a wonderful summary of these new additions to Mercy Park. Your words capture the beauty experienced, and your photos display the wonderful colors and awe we’ll experience during our visit. Thank you for sharing. And I’ll share your post as well. God Bless!

  2. I couldn’t imagine – I work in a hospital and when the storms roll in you always assume nothing could happen to a structure so large. Thank you for sharing how this tragedy was remembered by the community – while it makes the way out of the news cycle those that lived through it don’t forget.

  3. this is interesting i especially liked the fact that you posted the photo just after the tornado… not that i like to see devastation but it was nice to see where the beauty evolved from. really a lot of peaceful graceful movement in these sculptures in direct contrast to the bent jagged chaos they grew from. it was neat to see and read

    1. I agree! It reclaims the area and creates something beautiful. We will never forget what happened. However this park reminds us that life goes on and we can heal.

  4. If we ever make it back to that area, we will have to make a point to visit this park. What a story to tell and what a transformation. Those sculptures are gorgeous.

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