New installation unveiled at Cullman’s Art Park

Artist Heath McClain stands by as his piece is unveiled at Cullman’s Art Park Thursday afternoon. (Nick Griffin for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – There was a crowd gathered at Cullman’s Art Park, formerly known as City Park, Thursday afternoon for the unveiling of the park’s new centerpiece. The 1.8-acre park can be found at the corner of Main Avenue Southwest and Second Street Southwest, a quarter-mile north of U.S. Highway 278. It is open daily from sunrise to sunset. The former park office building on the property is the site where various art programs sponsored by Cullman Parks, Recreation, & Sports Tourism (CPRST) are held throughout the year. There are also basketball courts, picnic tables, grills and playground equipment on site.

Mayor Woody Jacobs got things started Thursday and was excited to talk about this latest project. He said he and the City have been in talks with multiple people in the community who can bring something new to city parks and are looking forward to seeing more events like this in the future.

“There’s nothing like a deadline, because three days ago, you wouldn’t have recognized this park. We’ve been kind of doing it in-house and had some folks helping us. This is the oldest park in Cullman. I talked to Wendell Copeland out here the other day and he said he remembers playing here as a kid in the ‘30s,” Jacobs said. “So, this park has been here a long time and we’re transforming it into Art Park. Cullman has really been a little bit lacking in the arts, so we’ve had Donald Walker helping us with some murals and things and we’re going to work with him even more and Adrian Scott who is the head of the Art Department at Wallace State. So, this is just kind of a start. I think they’ve formed an arts council, so again, that’s a start and we have lots of folks to thank in that process and we appreciate everyone for coming out.”

Former CPRST Executive Director Nathan Anderson introduced the artist who created Art Park’s new centerpiece, Cullman native Heath McClain, and gave some information on McClain’s path from Vinemont High School to the Big Apple.

“I’m really excited about introducing this next guy. He and I went to school together at Vinemont High School, and as we were thinking about the first piece of art for this park, it didn’t take us long to figure out that this guy was who we needed to contact,” Anderson said. “He’s all the way from New York now and I called him up and shared the whole idea and he quickly jumped on it and said he wanted to do it and set a new standard for art in Cullman, so this is really exciting. He is an artist and designer from Vinemont and currently lives in New York City. He has shown his work in numerous group shows around the country and he currently serves as the art director for the television series ‘Forged in Fire’ on The History Channel.”

McClain took the mic next and took a moment to thank both the City for the opportunity and his family for joining him for the occasion.

“Thank you all for being here. I couldn’t be more grateful and thankful to have the opportunity to do this. This is really a dream project for me,” McClain said. “I got a lot of y’all out here to come see this and y’all didn’t know exactly what was going on, so this has really made my year. I’m really grateful for all of this.”

CPRST Recreational Development Director Christy Turner had a lot of people to thank for helping make Thursday a reality and is excited about the new art initiatives happening in Cullman.

“This was a community effort from a lot of people. A lot of citizens, your city council, the mayor, the park board, the foundation board and we have an art council that came together and worked on this. Our parks and recreation employees, city employees and Nathan Anderson were instrumental in the vision and the implementation of what was great for our community,” Turner said. “This is actually really cool because this was the first park and the first park office is now our art building so it was kind of neat to revitalize this and give it a new life and have a new vision for the arts in our community.”

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Nick Griffin