Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Tom Block: Taking personal interest in legacy
of Bernheim Forest and special twig sculpture
First, in full disclosure, I am both a trustee of Bernheim Forest in Bullitt County and the great grandson of Isaac Bernheim who created the forest.
For those who aren’t familiar with the forest it is over 14,000 acres of privately owned preserved land. Bernheim has a 350 acre arboretum, some 1500 acres of natural area to explore with hiking paths and roads, plus over 12,000 acres of research forest.
One of my great grandfather’s desires was to encourage art in the forest; he hoped that the future trustees would search for ways to combine art and nature. As a descendant trustee it has always been a challenge to figure out what my great grandfather might have meant in his desire to see art thrive in nature. Recently I had the pleasure of seeing first hand one answer to that riddle.
Bernheim was very fortunate to have generous supporters who helped bring the world-renowned twig sculptor, Patrick Dougherty, to Bernheim. During April he created a monumental piece of twig sculpture that has to be seen to appreciate. He named it Snake Hollow as it is a both a serpentine creature and a maze at the same time. It is both beautiful to behold and fun to wander through.
The raw material is willow, and Bernheim was lucky to have great neighbors who supported the project and provided truckloads of willow. Patrick somehow came up with the vision for the piece, then outlined where the base willow saplings would be placed in the ground. Slowly, over several weeks the sculpture took form, and the final result was amazing.
I was fortunate to be one of the volunteers who got to work under Patrick and weave part of the twig sculpture. In more full disclosure, many did much more than me; but it was fun. I did my work a week before completion and left dubious that the final product would be finished in time for the grand opening. When I returned to Bernheim for the “vine” cutting, all was complete, and breathtaking in its splendor. Willow was bent, weaved, and bound into an amazing structure. The Dougherty sculpture and given me some understanding of what my great grandfather had envisioned when he suggested that his forest was to combine art and nature.
As a steward of that legacy I am in debt to both Patrick Dougherty and the staff at the forest for bringing this twig work of art to life.
Bernheim Forest is about an hour’s drive from Lexington, and only twenty-five minutes from downtown Louisville, well worth the trip. The sculpture should stand for two years, but the final verdict is up to nature.
Tom Block is a public policy consultant who had a 21-year career with JP Morgan Chase where he served as head of government relations in D.C. and created a Washington research product. A native Kentuckian, he also created the bank’s EU Government Relations program and developed a new position as U.S. Government Policy Strategist focusing on how U.S. government policy impacts capital markets. He has an extensive government and banking background, has worked on political campaigns and as a speech writer. He is a trustee of Bernheim Aboretum in Louisville and holds a B.A. degree in political science from American University. He and his wife now make their home in Kentucky. He is a regular contributor to KyForward. Contact him at email@example.com