Downtown sculptures bring our past to life

arts downtown downtown statues

When most people think of sculpture, Greenville is not the first town that comes to mind.

But the city is as full of lively artwork as it is of people and business. These sculptures range from realistic statues of famous folk to abstract sculptures that portray ideas and imagination.

Public art is an important part of a cityscape, says Paul Ellis, director of the Greenville Parks and Recreation.

"It adds to the quality of life and adds to the public space," he said.

Roy Fluhrer, director of the Fine Arts Center and chairman of the Arts in Public Places Commission, goes further: "Public art is a community's statement about itself, its spirit.

Some people say public art is beautiful. My personal belief is that public art should challenge us."

Ellis said Greenville's mixture of realistic statues and more abstract pieces gives the area a sense of place and history. And a new sculpture often creates conversation.

"You don't get much of a strong reaction on statues," he said. "They are what they are. You do on the abstract ones. We just put in a new one ("Aria" on Stone Avenue and Elizabeth Street). Some people said it looks like a pile of cheese. "

Fluhrer said downtown Greenville, including its public art, dazzles visitors. Official visitors are struck by the imagination that went into the revitalization of downtown, he said.

The sculpture and other public art "lets the world know there is a commmunity in South Carolina that values the human soul," he said.

Thelma Pollard, who works at Larkin's on the River, said she doesn't notice the sculptures every day, but she's happy they're here.

"Greenville has really grown. Downtown is amazing," she said, pointing out that visitors always seem to end up at Falls Park. "It's a lovely place to tour. I think we're getting better."

Besides the beauty, she said she's pleased that downtown is safe.

"You can walk down Main Street at night," she said.

Greenville's statues honor the forefathers of the city and "the modern art adds some pizazz," Ellis said. Fluhrer agreed.

"The whole point is to get a conversation going, to stretch your definition of art," he said.

"It's funny-looking," Jacie Strang, an 11-year-old visitor from Asheville, said of the Joel Shapiro sculpture in Falls Park. "I like it, but I don't know what it is."

The Art in Public Places Commission helps decide where and what to add to the sculptural landscape.

Also, the Council is setting aside $20,000 annually from the Sunday liquor tax funds that can be used to purchase public art. Many of the sculptures, however, were donated to the city.

The city picks a location, arranges to lease it and then sends out a request for proposals, finally picking a sculptor.

Mice on Main

The idea and fundraising for the mice came from Jimmy Ryan, then a senior at Christ Church Episcopal School. Zan Wells sculpted the mice, which can be found in various locations along Main Street. The first, along with the book that inspired it, can be spied on the fountain in front of the Hyatt on Main Street near College Street.

Confederate Memorial

Erected in 1892 at College and Main streets and moved to Springwood Cemetery about 1925, the memorial was sculpted by C.F. Koblrus. The model was Greenville Police Chief James Ligon, who fought in more than 20 Civil War battles.

Sterling High School students

The bronze artwork is at the corner of Main and Washington. Mariah Kirby-Smith, a Camden sculptor, created the statue. Funds for the statue were privately raised. The sculpture is placed in front of the former Woolworth's building, in which Sterling students held sit-ins and protests in the 1960s.

Joel Poinsett

Poinsett, a public works builder and renowned amateur botanist who brought the first poinsettia to the United States from Mexico, sits in Court Square, the center of historic Greenville. Zan Wells did the bronze Poinsett statue. The statue was funded by the three grandchildren of Frances and Tom Bruce.

Vardry McBee

McBee was a founder of Greenville. T.J. Dixon of San Diego created the statue of McBee, who constructed 100 buildings in Greenville County and built a textile mill along the Reedy River. Also, he donated land to four downtown churches. Private funds paid for the statues.

Nathanael Greene

The Revolutionary War general, known for his Southern Campaign during the war, perches on a plaza at the corner of The Greenville News building at Main and Broad streets. T.J. Dixon and James Nelson, a husband-and-wife sculpting team from San Diego, Calif., created the artwork.

Charles Townes

The hometown boy who invented the laser. Zan Wells captured Nobel Prize winner Townes in his "aha moment," sitting on a park bench in Washington, D.C., enjoying the azaleas in bloom as he waited for a restaurant to open. The statue, unveiled April 8, 2006, is at the corner of Main and Camperdown streets.

Shoeless Joe Jackson

The famous White Sox player who was banned from professional baseball after the "Black Sox" scandal during the 1919 World Series between the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds. Jackson is swinging "Black Betsy," his bat, on the east side of South Main and Augusta streets. Doug Young was the sculptor of the bronze work.

Nexus of Light

Dennis Himbach created the stainless steel work, which is placed in a traffic triangle the corner of South Main and Augusta streets. The Artisphere board of directors donated the artwork to the city in 2005.

Falls Lake Fall

The sculpture is located at the entrance to Falls Park. Bryan Hunt of New York created the 1,200-pound bronze sculpture that appears to drop from the sky into a pool. Hunt said the sculpture represents whatever onlookers want it to be. However, it is symbolic of the natural falls a little deeper into the park. The sculpture was dedicated in 2005.

Liberty Bridge

The suspension bridge was designed by Miguel Rosales of Boston. Liberty Bridge, which has attracted walkers to downtown, has a 380-foot curved span 55 feet above the falls of the Reedy River. The bridge opened in 2004 and won the international Arthur G. Hayden Award for outstanding engineering design and vision in 2005.

Untitled 2002-2003

The painted red steel sculpture by Joe Shapiro is at the Wyche Overlook near the Liberty Bridge. The dancing or running sculpture often invokes discussion when people view it. It tends to create an emotional response.

The Children's Garden

At Linky Stone Park on Reedy View Street, the kids will find Winnie the Pooh, an Indian with his back to road traffic, the three bears by a little house, Peter Rabbit and a large pig rooting in flowers. An elevated Academy Street runs over the park, and the pillars holding it up have been painted.

Annika's Rush

Zan Wells sculpted the open suitcase, which is used as a location for Greenville guidebooks when the Convention and Visitors Bureau kiosk in City Hall is closed. Chris Stone, president of the CVB, donated the artwork. Along with the sculpture is a short story of how the suitcase was left sitting on a street in downtown Greenville.

Testament to Form

Located at the entrance to Design Strategies in the old courthouse. The artwork, created by Dennis Heimbach, is owned by the business rather than the city but is available to the public for viewing. The sculpture, which appears to be a red ribbon of flame, complements the old building, which has been renovated to be Design Strategies headquarters.

Mountain Fall

Phillip Whitley sculpted the two tall metallic spires portraying the mountains, with the curvilinear space between them representing water. The sculpture is at Poinsett Plaza on Poinsett Plaza in front of Carolina First Bank on South Main Street.

Rising Star

The sculpture, donated by llyn strong of llyn strong gallery and sculpted by Bob Doster, is located at Main and College streets. The bronze statue was given to the city in the 1990s. Doster, an internationally renowned artist, is located in Lancaster. His studio includes a working studio, art gallery and an outdoor botanical and sculpture garden.


The bronze is located at the corner of Main Street and Stone Avenue. Sculptor John Acorn is nationally recognized. He is the former head of graduate studies in fine arts at Clemson University and also has taught at the Greenville County Museum of Art.


The yellow painted steel sculpture at the corner of Stone Avenue and Elizabeth Street resembles a skein of tumbled ribbon or soft ice cream. It was created by Michael Neil Jacobsen and sponsored by Greenville Arts in Public Places. The only guidelines — it had to be durable, it needed to be moveable and as vandal-proof as possible and it should not have a political message.

Mother and Children

A flat representational statue can be found on West Washington Street at Academy Street. John Pendarvis created the artwork.

Mountain Flight

By the front of the Museum of Art of Greenville County on College Avenue. Richard Hunt of Chicago created the work, Mountain Flight 1978. It is a massive-appearing sculpture of welded Cor-Ten steel that represents the solidity of a mountain. At the top are various peaks that appear to be leaping off to fly. Hunt works in various media and his works often make comments on contemporary social and political issues.

Pete Hollis

The statue is located in the Pete Hollis Sculpture Garden on Rutherford Road and Pete Hollis Memorial Highway. Created by artist Tom Durham, who formerly lived in Charleston, the 8-foot bronze statue honors Hollis, a nationally recognized educator who served as superintendent of the former Parker School District.

Jenny Munro