Granbury city officials were not involved in the decision to create a sculpture garden at scenic Shanley Park, but the idea seems to fit hand-in-glove with the city’s goal of being designated a cultural arts district by the Texas Commission on the Arts.
The label could increase the city’s tourism appeal and open grant opportunities.
Although the city’s Parks and Recreation Department decorates Shanley Park every Christmas season with lighted displays that draw locals and tourists alike, the city does not own it. It belongs to the nonprofit Shanley Park Association and is overseen by a board composed largely of prominent longtime residents, including descendants of original board members.
The board recently voted unanimously to create a sculpture garden in the bucolic green space in the downtown historic area, where there are fountains, pathways and bridges. The first bronze will honor a man who made significant contributions to the community and other works may depict prominent local figures as well. Those plans align with the city’s commitment to local history.
Area artists will have an opportunity to showcase their work through the sculpture garden, and fundraisers will be held to bring the concept to fruition, board members said.
COMMITMENT TO COMMUNITY
Shanley Park had its beginnings almost 50 years ago.
In 1974, with the country’s 200th birthday approaching, County Judge Milton Meyer and Granbury Mayor Ken Hill formed the Hood County Bicentennial Commission. They appointed local citizens to plan a Fourth of July celebration to coincide with the big national celebration in 1976.
Once that task was complete, the group wanted to continue working together for the betterment of Granbury and Hood County.
In 1977, group members contributed to a down payment to purchase 4.77 acres of land that included the historic two-story rock house known as the Shanley House. The plan was to keep the land a greenspace in perpetuity.
With money from donations and fundraisers, the note was paid off in 1994. Around that time, the Hood County Bicentennial Commission became the Shanley Park Association.
A PLACE FOR ART
The first piece planned for the sculpture garden is a life-size bronze of Dan Coates, an artist who was instrumental in the original effort to purchase the land and to preserve its natural beauty.
The sculpture will be placed somewhere near Shanley House. Currently leased by the Lake Granbury Art Association, the building served as the community’s first senior center and its first Meals on Wheels headquarters, according to board member Jean Cate.
Coates was instrumental in that effort, said Cate, whose late husband Charlie was on the original bicentennial board and whose daughter Eileen serves on it with her today. Cate said that Coates was “committed” to the senior center project and scrubbed the building clean so that meals could be cooked and served there.
“He was physically, mentally, and financially involved,” she said.
The idea to create a sculpture garden came to board member Courtney Coates Blackman, Coates' daughter, several years ago when she visited the Benson Sculpture Garden in Loveland, Colorado. It is 10 acres and features 178 art pieces.
“As I started walking through that garden I was just so inspired and in awe of what I was seeing and I thought, that’s it! We can have that,” she said. “We have a lot of talented artists in our community.”
Blackman said that at the Benson Sculpture Garden, master gardeners “adopt” sculptures so that the beauty of the artworks is enhanced by landscaping.
That sculpture garden is much larger than Shanley Park, and Cate said that the Shanley project will feature only a few pieces. She said that the board remains committed to keeping the park largely a green space.
Future bronzes have not yet been determined, but Cate and Blackman said that at least some of them may depict others who, like Coates, were important figures in local history.
Cate said that renowned artist and Shanley Park board member Mike Tabor will create the life-size sculpture of Coates. It will be a replica of the western-themed maquette he created of Coates called “Ranch Repose,” but she noted that the sculpture garden itself will not be western themed.
Blackman and Cate said the board is working on fundraising ideas and will announce those plans once they are solidified. Blackman said that the Coates sculpture will cost about $90,000 to create and install.
Donations can be made online at shanleysculpturegarden.org or mailed to: Shanley Sculpture Garden, 3106 White Horse Court, Granbury, Texas, 76049.
“It is a precious, precious piece of property here,” Cate said of Shanley Park’s importance to Granbury. “The thing that I like best about the Shanley Park board is our feeling that it belongs to the people of Granbury.”