For the last few months, an artist has been hard at work at the Fontenelle Forest Nature Center. Visitors have been able to see Kirk Vaughn-Robinson at work, creating an oversized sculpture of Cernunnos, a Celtic god of the forest, and some hard-to-miss, 4-foot origami bats for Halloween.
Now the artist-in-residence has one final project to represent his time at Fontenelle Forest during its “Green Revolution” exhibit. Today, he will unveil both a children's book he wrote and an outdoor sculpture he created based on characters in the book.
In keeping with the green theme, his three art projects have been created with recycled materials, such as aluminum window screens, moss, dryer lint, inner tubes and tire treads, 2-liter plastic bottles, bubble wrap, burlap, tape and a plant-fiber and limestone clay.
“The idea is to take something with a common use and turn it into something more sophisticated,” Vaughn-Robinson said. “It was fun to come up with new ideas.”
Forest officials think there is a positive and fun link between artists' works and what is found at the forest.
“We're a science-based organization, but art can provide a connection to nature and to science,” said Brad Watkins, Fontenelle Forest director of communications.
Vaughn-Robinson's book, “The Chorus of the Forest,” tells the story of a little boy named Kit who loves Halloween costumes and doesn't want to go to school. Kit, wearing one of his costumes, wanders into Fontenelle Forest and there he stumbles on the Beast. Kit decides he will capture the Beast, take it to school for show and tell, and then keep it at home.
Of course, none of those things is a good idea, and the boy learns some important but gentle lessons: Don't be afraid to be yourself, and don't take wild things away from their home in the forest.
Vaughn-Robinson, who also is a singer and an actor, said he started his art career while he was touring nationally as a cast member of “The Phantom of the Opera.” During downtime at the theater and in hotel rooms, he began sketching and sculpting. One of the sketches he created was “Kit and the Beast.”
When the tour ended, “I was homeless and unemployed,” he said with a laugh. He eventually ended up in Omaha, a place he had visited while touring and where he thought he could find work in its artistic community. He was right.
“Doors opened for me here,” he said.
In August, Watkins brought him on board as an artist-in-residence at Fontenelle Forest. By then, Vaughn-Robinson had come up with a story based on the “Kit” sketch.
The artist's work will culminate in the Saturday event, where he will discuss his art projects and unveil the sculpture as well as sign copies of “The Chorus of the Forest.” There also will be activities and treats for kids.