Joplin cut the ribbon Thursday morning on the Rotary Sculpture Garden, the newest addition to Mercy Park.

The garden, on the former site of St. John's Regional Medical Center, features sculptures with the intent to enhance residents' quality of life. The project involved both the Rotary Club of Joplin and the Joplin Daybreak Rotary Club.

"The reason we did this is for the community and people coming in to the community," said Bob Headlee, chairman of the Rotary Sculpture Garden board.

The first nine sculptures were installed last month. They were donated by Harry and Erin Cornell, Sharon and Lance Beshore, and Barbara and Jim Hicklin.

The Rotary Sculpture Garden board — with representatives from both Rotary clubs, members of Joplin's arts community and city staff — has created a strategic plan to implement fundraising and guide sculpture criteria, selection and installation. It also will oversee the fiscal management of Rotary Sculpture Garden Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization, as well as long-term maintenance of the garden.

Headlee said the board will continue to reach out to individuals, businesses and corporations to gauge their interest in donating a sculpture to the garden.

"We're looking for the opportunity to grow," he said.

Jennifer Reeves, a representative of Southwest Missouri Bank, said she regularly visits Mercy Park, often to walk the trails during her lunch break.

"It's so calming and peaceful, and it brightens my day," she said.

Reeves said the sculpture garden is a welcome addition to the park.

"The sculptures that you've added to the park are amazing and beautiful, and they add so much to the community," she told the sculpture garden board.

The project, which has been in the works for the past two years, was inspired by the Benson Sculpture Garden in Loveland, Colorado. The 10-acre park features 164 sculptures and draws tens of thousands of visitors each year, according to its website.

The nine pieces currently in the Joplin garden are “Joyful Empowerment,” by Angela Mia De La Vega; “Rabbit Reach,” by Tim Cherry; “Water Lily,” by Rosalind Cook; "Standing Giraffes” (two sculptures), unidentified artist; “The Bird Feeder,” by Rosalind Cook; “Resting Big Cat,” by Michael Boyce; and “Whitetail Deer” (two sculptures), by Michael Boyce.

Emily Younker is the assistant metro editor at the Joplin Globe. Contact: eyounker AT joplinglobe DOT com.

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