In the middle of Appleton’s Arbutus Park, dark cloth obscured a pair of panels, positioned to create two sides of a triangle. With the covers removed, the crowd of 60 or so seemed compelled to push forward and touch what they saw — a ceramic butterfly mosaic representing the rebirth of a park, and a neighborhood.
Sustainable Fox Valley has been working in the Arbutus Park area for several years, engaging residents to improve their own quality of life in their central city neighborhood. The park — a remnant of a ravine that once stretched across the downtown before most of it was filled with garbage in a less enlightened age — became the center of that effort. Plantings, removal of invasive species and neighborhood gatherings in place of shady characters helped them take back the park.
Among the ideas was a small piece of butterfly art, created by children, to adorn a butterfly garden. Linda Muldoon, owner of Coventry Glass in Appleton, was enjoying the reaction two years after having said, “Why not do something bigger?” A $2,000 grant from the Community Foundation helped.
The work is the collective creativity of 256 students from Columbus and Lincoln elementary schools who drew the butterflies, 47 Appleton West and Renaissance School students who turned the drawings into mosaic and 19 adults who put it all together. Neighbors contributed jewelry, pins and other bits of this and that to be used in the designs.
When you are downtown, park your car on Packard Street and walk down the stairs to see what this neighborhood has done. Check out their work, and rub your hand across the mosaic to feel the smooth surface that results from working together.