Nestled in an area known as Old Deaf School Park exists a quaint, yet artistic oasis that attracts tourist from across the world. Travelers to Columbus, Ohio have flocked to see the incredible display based on the painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grand Jatte by famed artist and one of the first to use the style of pointillism, Georges Seurat. A walk in the park will bring to life the incredible painting and the story behind its creation will inspire and excite even the novice art aficionado.
The History of the Park
Columbus native James T. Mason fancied himself a folk-inspired sculpturist and his idea for what became Topiary Park began with a request from his wife Elaine. She wanted him to create a topiary sculpture for their home garden and Mason’s imagination ran wild. He proposed his recreation of the famous pointillist painting and his wife liked the idea so much that she took it to her bosses at Columbus Recreation and Parks Department. The department was thrilled with the idea and in 1988, Mason created all of the cages made to train the trees. By 1992, the park was finished. These days it attracts visitors from around the world.
However, Topiary Park isn’t just a tourist attraction. For residents of Columbus, it’s quite an important landmark, especially given the historic grounds upon which it was built. Ohio was one of the first of five locales to establish an educational center for those who were speech or hearing impaired. They were also the very first state to be government funded. The first building of the school was opened in 1834, with other quickly following in the 1850s. By 1953, the school relocated to its current location, thus leaving the former space vacant and the surrounding neighborhood rapidly declining. Seven of the ten deaf school acres became the dedicated area that is now Topiary Park. It features a shrubbery depiction of Seurat’s painting, with humans, boats, and dogs. In constructing the park, they trained yew trees to bend convincingly into the forms of people, animals, and objects at their will. The park was funded by donations from several different groups, but perhaps the best part about the park is how it is maintained. The park relies on volunteer committees for mulching and weeding duties.
Planning Your Visit
If you’re planning a visit to the park, you have several options for how you’ll tour the grounds. You can take a self-guided tour with the assistance of a printed guide. This handy document will help you learn a little bit more about the history of the grounds, as well as the best route to take inside the park. If you’re traveling with a larger group, you have the option to be led amongst the grounds by a docent, who has been well-educated in the history of the park and all of the favorite sites.
While the park isn’t full of playground equipment or all of the bells and whistles, it’s a brilliant departure from the electronically driven world we live in today. If you’re a gardener or a tree enthusiast, there are some can’t miss spots to check out in Columbus, Ohio’s Topiary Park.