For Chapelboro.com | Article by Melissa Bartoletta
Permanent public art is now on display at the Booker Creek Basin Park, a new urban green space designed to mitigate stormwater. Park visitors will need to look up to find the iridescent stainless steel sculptures, each piece towers about 12 feet above the trail. Local metal sculptor Holly Felice found inspiration from nature and built each piece to resemble a different insect species that can be found in the space – butterfly, dragonfly and ladybug. The Booker Creek Basin Park and the public art around it was made possible by a major collaboration with several Town departments, boards, and committees, including Public Works, Parks and Recreation, Community Arts & Culture, the Cultural Arts Commission, and the Parks, Recreation, and Greenways Commission.
What you may not know about Booker Creek Basin Park:
- It’s the first of its kind. Climate change is causing more severe weather and in 2015, the Booker Creek Storage Basin was prioritized for flood control – in hopes to stabilize streams and improve water quality. Fast forward to 2020 and construction of the first flood control project in Chapel Hill began. By regrading nearly 4 acres of land, the park will improve water flow and reduce the depth, duration and frequency of flooding.
- The park may flood periodically, and that’s ok. It’s true, the park was designed to slow down the flow of water by holding more of it in place. So, on heavy rainfall days, the trails may be underwater. That’s why the public art was installed so high – to avoid ever being entirely submerged.
- You can find native insects, flora, and fauna. To build the park, several trees had to come down. In their place is a mixture of native trees, shrubs, and flowers that are well-adapted for flooding conditions. These plants will attract a variety of insects and birds over time, making this an excellent spot to get to know your non-human neighbors. If you visit the park now, you will notice what look like sticks standing up along the grasses. These “live stakes” are the trees and shrubs that are already starting to grow.
What you need to know about the art and artist…
- The iridescent colors come from heat, and that’s trade secret. Artist Holly Felice has been working with stainless steel for over 15 years. Her signature style includes a heat treatment on the steel, torching it in a particular way to produce vibrant blue, orange, and purple hues. Felice learned this technique from her mentor and is a secret method known to few.
- The park isn’t the only thing that hopes to bring people and nature together. Joining two shopping and living communities together in a shared natural space was one interest for the park. Holly Felice took that symbolism into her design saying, “My goal is to be a part of creating a space that allows for a seamless and relaxing transition from the bustle of life to the tranquility of nature and all the beauty it offers.”
- All good things take time. The park construction started in early 2020 and artist Holly Felice was commissioned at the very start, with the hope that the art would be installed as the park opened. The art evolved with the changing times of both the project and our world. Knowing that outdoor spaces are one of the few places for people to spend time together amidst a pandemic gave Felice inspiration to integrate a welcoming message to the art.
Whether you’re meeting friends and family for a sunset wander or traveling from one shopping complex to the next, the Booker Creek Basin Park can be a dose of refreshing inspiration and peace. Located between Eastgate Crossing Shopping Center and South Elliott Road, folks are encouraged to visit the space and take advantage of the park amenities while soaking in the wonder of what is possible. To learn more about the Booker Creek Basin Project visit townofchapelhill.org/bookercreekproject. To learn more about the artist Holly Felice, visit hollyfelice.com. To learn more about public art in Chapel Hill, visit chapelhillarts.org.