A new kind of natural beauty on the trail
The Lackawanna River Heritage Trail (LRHT) is a linear, interpretive path. It not only connects communities, but it’s also the spine of the Lackawanna Greenway. In addition to its uses for health, fitness, recreation, socialization, enjoyment of the outdoors, alternative transportation and access to the river, the trail also provides a close view of important remnants of the region’s history and culture. Recently, a unique community partnership and talented industrial artists have transformed the trail into an outdoor art gallery! Large iron sculptures have been installed at several sites along the trail, complementing and enhancing the landscape.
The new project, Confluence: Art on the Trail, is the result of a collaborative effort among Keystone College, Keystone Iron Works, Lackawanna County Department of Arts and Culture and the Lackawanna Heritage Valley. Aptly named for the confluence of the Lackawanna and Susquehanna Rivers, as well as the coming together of arts, culture, the environment and diverse organizations, this endeavor was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Lackawanna County’s Arts Engage program matches professional artists with young people who have encountered challenges in traditional classrooms. Having been identified as “at-risk,” these students work under the tutelage of Nikki Moser of Keystone Iron Works, training in practical skills for future careers in the industrial arts. Students are introduced to creative and productive outlets for their talents and energies. Some graduates have gone on to enroll in college-level arts programs.
A large vessel called The Hands is located on the Downtown Scranton Riverwalk near the spur trail connecting to Scranton High School. Cast by Arts Engage students using their own hands as part of the mold, the handprints in the vessel symbolize the hard work, determination and artistic ability of young people who have learned to experience the joy of casting iron for the first time.
Each year, a team of young artists participate in the Iron Pour at the Arts on Fire Festival at the historic Scranton Iron Furnaces in early June. It is a delight to observe the skill and enthusiasm of these young artists when they experience the pride and excitement of creating a work of art using the authentic process that was utilized when the Iron Furnaces were active in the late 19th and early 20th century. Their accomplishment is inspiring, and it represents the spirit of resilience and hard work that characterizes our local heritage.
Another piece in the Confluence collection is Balance by Vaughn Randall, located near the 7th Avenue Trailhead in Scranton. Mr. Randall has an extensive background in the creation of both sculptural as well as industrial castings. Prior to his current position as Professor of Sculpture at the State University of New York at Cortland, he served as Art Director and Facilities Developer for the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark’s Metal Arts Program. His unique perspective and background will make you consider what Balance means to you. And that’s the beauty of art on the trail; much like poetry, it’s all open to interpretation. The possibilities are endless.
Ardent is another must-see piece on the trail. Inspired by a dance production he recently enjoyed, artist Andy Light incorporated movement into his piece. You wouldn’t think of iron — heavy and solid as it is — as a dynamic medium, but somehow Light’s piece conveys the loftiness of a dancer swirling scarves through the air. Somehow, Andy made iron graceful.
Ardent decorates the end of a quiet, dead-end street in Archbald. During the installation of the piece, the Mr. Light was surprised and elated by the hundreds of people who stopped by to watch the artist at work. The piece includes a circle through which an observer can peer to see the sky, the trees, and nearby buildings. It frames the sky in a way that draws out the true beauty of the landscape.
There are many art forms that can become part of the exhibition of art in the great outdoors. “Confluence” will not end with these sculptures. Nikki and her students cast a fourth vessel, which will soon be on display in Archbald. There also are plans to install some of the poetry of Karen Blomain along the trail. Karen grew up in Archbald, and her poems reflect the experiences of the people of the neighborhood.
So the next time you take a walk, jog or bicycle along the LRHT, take a few moments to enjoy the natural beauty of the area, with particular notice of the art on the trail. The confluence of art, culture, heritage, and natural resources is a beautiful thing!