Located behind the Columbus Library sits a one-of-a-kind park, a topiary garden. But what makes it so special is that it’s the only one in the world that’s based on a famous painting.
“If you’re familiar at all with George Seurat and his Sunday afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte, you will definitely see the painting reborn,” said visitor Jennifer Doorenbos.
That’s right, a classic painting brought to life in topiary. A Sunday Afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte is George Seurat’s most famous work and a founding example of the Neo-Impressionist movement. It depicts Parisians relaxing and enjoying the day on the banks of the River Seine.
The idea for the garden was conceived and sculpted by Columbus artist James T. Mason and his wife Elaine.
“Mr. Mason was a professional sculptor and his wife was a retired arts teacher at the Cultural Arts Center. The two of them got together and recreated this design out of our forestry,” said Dominique Shank, the community relations chief for Columbus Recreation and Parks.
The park sits on land that was once home to the Ohio Institution for the Deaf. After a fire destroyed some buildings in the early 1980s, the area was razed and construction of the new Topiary Garden began. The pond, meant to represent the River Seine, was put in and artificial hills were installed.
“The structures are maintained with sheep shears and they are trimmed twice a year, once in the late summer, and then again in the early fall,” Shank said.
The garden includes 54 people, eight boats, three dogs, a monkey and a cat, all in the form of topiary sculptures made of yew trees formed around bronze frames.
You’ll want to begin your tour at the point of “As He Saw It.” A bronze marker shows Seurat’s view as he painted his masterpiece.
“I’m here with family who are in town that we haven’t seen in a while, and I said, ‘well, while we’re here, we have to see Topiary Park because it’s just a beautiful, little hidden gem,'” said visitor Stephanie Garber. “Columbus is just kind of building up all over, but it’s nice to see that the park is still the same and hasn’t changed. It’s just like a little oasis in the middle of all of this.”
Seurat’s painting is on view at the Art Institute of Chicago, but the Topiary Garden Park in Columbus is only a One Tank Trip away. The park is open from dawn to dusk and admission is free.