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A sneak peek at a grand welcome

For a long time, the Old Forest has felt like one of Memphis’ best-kept secrets: a place to immerse yourself in nature, teach your kids how to ride their bikes, or enter a race supporting your favorite cause. But as more and more people flock to a revitalized Overton Park, they’re discovering this special place for themselves. And soon, all our neighbors will receive a warm welcome at the three main entrances to the Old Forest, as three local artists create and install entry gateways near Overton Bark, the Abe Goodman golf clubhouse, and the East Parkway Pavilion.

Like Bike Gate on the east end of the park (although smaller in scale), these unique works of art capture the spirit of Overton Park and its century-old role in inspiring creative works. They are meant to signal to pedestrians, runners, and cyclists: You’re welcome here. Come in and explore.

We checked in with the creative teams of Yvonne Bobo, Ben Butler, and Tylur French to get a preview of what’s to come. Here are a few photos from their studios.

Yvonne Bobo, “Rhapsody”
Gateway beside golf clubhouse

Yvonne’s gateway will be the first to go in, and you’ll start seeing her crews out late this month. For the installation, she and her team have created about 200 birds–150 out of Corten steel and 50 out of bronze. They’re working on ways to create rust and patina so that no two birds will be the same, calling attention to the more than 100 bird species that live in or migrate through the Old Forest each year. The gate will pivot on its right hinge when emergency vehicles need to enter the roads. Pedestrians, cyclists, and golf carts will enter to the left of the sculpture.

This structure will hold about 200 steel birds...
This structure will hold about 200 steel birds…


Here are a few of them, getting ready to be attractively rusted!
Here are a few of them, getting ready to be attractively rusted!


Yvonne's studio windows leave no doubt that you've come to the right place.
Yvonne’s studio windows leave no doubt that you’ve come to the right place.

Ben Butler, “Growth”
Gateway adjacent to East Parkway Playground

To cut each piece of steel needed for the tree-ring-inspired “Growth,” Ben’s team built a full-scale plywood model. They cut that model into labeled pieces and fabricated each individual piece of steel to match. When it’s time for installation, they’ll bring all those puzzle pieces on-site and fit them back together in the park. For Ben, who usually works with wood, it’s an interesting departure that he’ll be working with steel–in a piece inspired by the woody rings of trees.

Courtesy of George Williford
Courtesy of George Williford


A few pieces of the puzzle
A few pieces of the puzzle

Tylur French, “Old Growth”
Gateway between Rainbow Lake Playground and Overton Bark

Tylur’s crew has turned the entire floor of their workshop into a scale model of their Art Nouveau arch. They’re working to form the steel into curved shapes and choosing paint swatches for the arch. Then they’ll move into the details, such as a trail map that will appear underfoot as visitors walk through.