Photo Uploaded: Nov 09 2007 23:51:36 GMT Taken: 2007:08:31 13:20:32 Manufacturer: Canon Camera: EOS DIGITAL REBEL XTi Aperture: F11 Shutter: 1/250 sec ISO: 100 Flash: No (Turned off)
Our 2007 Holiday
The last day
Enchanted Highway, North Dakota
If you build it, they will come..........
“Without art, music, literature and theater, our talented and motivated young people have only two choices: Frustration or escape,” said historian and writer Wallace Stegner of prairie populations. Gary Greff in Regent, North Dakota believes him. With these words ringing in his head and the knowledge that his home town lost 33 percent of its population over the last 20 years, he works to be a force for change. He works building massive public art on the road into town.
Gary started The Enchanted Highway, a roadside sculpture project, in 1991. He left his profession in education and moved back to his hometown to try to impact its future. He’s been building gigantic sculptures along the highway into Regent for twelve years now and has no intention of stopping. His original inspiration was in a field on the farm-to-market road. A local farmer had constructed an iron strong man lifting a round hay-bale. Gary enjoyed the public art but what he noticed most was all the attention this statue was getting from travelers. He wondered if something even larger would get more attention. He wondered if he could create something that would entice travelers to come to Regent, North Dakota.
A folk artist was born. Gary Greff, the artist, now works exclusively on metal sculptures for the Enchanted Highway. His medium is used farm equipment and old oil-well metals. He uses the welding skills every farm boy learns. He creates designs in collaboration with any local artist who wants to brainstorm and each sculpture employs a different style of metal design. The sculptures are built on a grand scale to be an impression on the prairie landscape. The smallest pheasant chick is 20 feet long and 15 feet tall while the Geese in Flight sculpture weighs in at 75 tons and is 156 feet long and 110 feet tall.
Metal has great significance to prairie populations that farm. Every machine is heavily relied on to bring the harvest in; making their maintenance a top priority. Everyone who works a farm learns how to take care of metal equipment. Metal working, part of the region’s heritage, is an appropriate medium for artistic expression on the Plains. The Enchanted Highway project utilizes the creative metal-working skills that have been honed for generations in Regent. Many of the area farmers and town’s people gave Gary a hand welding the first few sculptures. Local residents took the opportunity for artistic expression as they worked as ‘artists’, most for the first time in their lives. Their work created a public art exhibit for the entire region and gave these new artists something they are fiercely proud of.
The Enchanted Highway project is twelve years along and includes the following sculptures: The Tin Family, Teddy Roosevelt Rides Again, Pheasants on the Prairie, Grasshoppers in the Field, Deer Crossing and Geese in Flight. North Dakota now includes The Enchanted Highway on its official State map. The Guinness World Book of Records honored the Geese in Flight sculpture in 2002 as the world’s largest scrap metal sculpture. When The Enchanted Highway opened a gift shop last summer, to help sustain the project, over 10,000 travelers signed the guest book. They came from everywhere. Now Gary watches people drive to Regent, North Dakota to see these large metal creations and he thinks about new businesses opening. He envisions more employment for local people. He sees his dream is becoming a reality and the future looks bright for Regent. For Gary Greff, the most critical outcome, that of strengthening the economic viability of his hometown, is happening through art.
A professor from North Dakota State University said of The Enchanted Highway project, “Folk artists make imagery dealing with what they know best. Farmers are artists of the land, and the imagery appearing in these sculptures is folk art in its finest form.”