For nearly a decade now, a whimsical, twirling metallic creation has matured into one of the most aesthetic and eye-catching centerpieces in downtown Gastonia.
The kinetic tree sculpture in Center City Park was erected in 2010 with the understanding that it might eventually need to be relocated from its spot at 147 W. Main Ave. And with the city planning to sell the park land to make way for a new residential complex, that day will likely be coming soon.
“I think the good thing is that because it’s movable, there’s always the idea that we can choose to put it about anywhere,” said Vincent Wong, the community services director for the city of Gastonia.
For at least another temporary period, the piece of art known officially as ‘Ghillie Dhu’s Enchantment’ will be moved to the front of the city’s Garland Business Center on the 100 block of South Street. An official date for that transition has yet to be determined, but it probably won’t happen for a few more months.
City leaders anticipate finalizing the details of a plan to sell the Center City Park land to South Carolina-based Kuester Development early next year. The firm intends to invest $25 million in a roughly 100-unit apartment complex on the site, which would represent the first structure to be built from the ground up downtown Gastonia in decades.
Center City Park came about in 2009 as a temporary way to dress up an unsightly gap downtown, which was created when the city had to condemn three buildings that were essentially falling down. Ghillie Dhu’s Enchantment was unveiled in 2010, after artist Harry McDaniel received a $17,000 commission from Keep Gastonia Beautiful to create the aluminum tree sculpture.
Keep Gastonia Beautiful had purchased art for the city’s benefit before then, but Ghilli Dhu was noteworthy in that it was the first piece of public art commissioned by the group.
“It’s a signature piece for Keep Gastonia Beautiful, and it really helped an area that needed to be fixed up,” Wong said.
The sculpture’s name refers to a guardian spirit of trees in Scottish folklore. It is made up of three separate pieces, and the top two sections of ‘branches’ rotate imaginatively when the wind blows.
A metal railing will be removed and a couple of trees will be relocated to make way for the sculpture’s next home in front of the Garland Center. It will likely be mounted on the concrete base that now holds a flag pole, Wong said.
Other temporary spots were considered, but the Garland Center was chosen because it’s in a walkable area downtown, where passers-by can stop and appreciate the sculpture. In the future, it could be moved to a more permanent home on the west side of the Rotary Centennial Pavilion, where the city wants to build a park, or even somewhere within the planned Franklin Urban Sports and Entertainment District.
“Those are two considerations, but there may be another idea that comes up that we can consider as well,” Wong said.
You can reach Michael Barrett at 704-869-1826 or on Twitter @GazetteMike.