Root Ball Park idea taking shape

| April 18, 2013

COSHOCTON – Over the years, judges from America in Bloom have encouraged Coshocton to focus on urban forestry and a group of creative-minded citizens are finding a unique way to do just that.

A Root Ball Park is being developed by Anne Cornell from the Pomerene Center for the Arts and a diverse group of team members.

“We want art to have a reason to fit in,” Cornell said. “You just don’t want to plop something down with no context. The tree initiative is our context. We will move them around and then plant them in the fall to be part of our urban forestry.”

The Root Ball Park idea was designed by two architects from Brooklyn, N.Y. who traveled to Coshocton earlier this month to meet with Cornell and her fellow teammates. The roots of the trees in their park are encased in bags that contain bean bags for people to sit on. They also are portable.

“People are responding very positively to the idea,” Cornell said.

 A recent survey done showed that 92 percent of 71 people who responded said “yes” to the project. Ninety percent of those who took the survey also said they would hang out in the park, 89 percent said they would invite friends from out of town and 98 percent said temporary public art projects like the Root Ball Park make Coshocton more interesting and attractive.

“We have a diverse group here in the community working on the project and sharing their knowledge and skills,” Cornell said. “When you bring people together, things happen and your plans become bigger than you thought they could.”

In addition to Cornell, the group includes Dominic Shaffer and Donovan Rice, who are both River View High School seniors, Cayton Heath, a professional photographer, Brady Crites, a college student volunteer interested in architecture, Faithe Arden, an industrial sewer, Jim Gray, an arborist and Silvie Fuster and Evan Bennett principals, VAMOS Architects from Brooklyn, N.Y.

“Our aim right now is to have 20 trees that we move three times,” Cornell said. “We’d like to start by putting four trees at each high school (including the Career Center) and four at the Park Hotel site. We thought the kids could lounge around the trees and have lunch outside.”

The group also hopes to have the first Root Ball Parks set up for the Dogwood Festival.

“We want to put the trees in unexpected places,” Cornell said.

They have thought about placing the trees at the plaza, a bigger cluster at the Park Hotel and maybe the fairgrounds.

“There are a lot of places to consider, but we know we don’t want to move them more than three times to avoid stressing the trees out,” Cornell said. “We’d like to do it for a couple of years so we don’t have to put the trees at every place this year.”

The hope is that these temporary parks will get people to gather in places they normally would not.

“Art is about putting things in unexpected places and creating a different reality,” Cornell said. “We will have seating and programming at the Root Ball Parks and hopefully give people new and different ways to come together and explore who is in the community and the places in it. One of challenges Coshocton faces is public spaces for people to gather. If you have this, energy will grow up around them and even lead to the potential for business growth.”

Cornell said the group received initial funding for the project, but is working on developing an “I Heart Root Balls,” product line to help raise more money.

“When we make the bags for the trees we will have leftover material to use for some of our products,” she said. “There will be no waste from this project. All material will be repurposed and reused.”

The group also will be looking for more man power to help care for the trees.

The Root Ball Park project will use a new model being developed at the Pomerene Center called The Community Studio.

“I’m transitioning from my position as Pomerene Director to Pomerene Artistic
Director and Community Studio Artist,” Cornell said. “The Community Studio is an extension of the Pomerene Center for the Arts into the community. Its purpose is to encourage the general public to create public art in all of its various forms. Although these public works of art may not be practical solutions to complex community problems, they may serve to promote collaboration and creative thinking that can plant the seeds for real world answers for the challenges we face.”

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About the Author ()

I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!

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