Recently, our very own GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail was voted No. 3 of the Top Ten Best Urban Trails in the country by a USA Today/10 Best poll. Upstate residents love the 20-mile shady, picturesque, winding route that cuts through downtown Greenville all the way up to Travelers Rest. Newly situated on the trail is a sculpture by avid cyclist and artist Kathleen King, who is also the Independent Coordinator of the Swamp Rabbit Trail Public Art Collection. We biked over to her whimsical sculpture The Runner, situated near East Bramlett Road where the trail meets the tracks, to find out more about art in public places.
Why did you relocate to Greenville, after growing up and living in California? >> I was living in Santa Barbara, and I started hearing a lot about the Carolinas as a cycling hub. Back in 2007, I had friends talking about Greenville, as well as Raleigh and Chapel Hill. I was invited here to work on the public art project and moved here in 2013.Then, I was asked to do one of my “bike scribbles,” called The Tortoise Has a Spare, on the brick wall at the Swamp Rabbit Green in 2014.
What formal art training do you have? >> I went to California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, to study art, but honestly, I didn’t want to graduate and end up with tremendous debt. I am completely self-taught and spent my time in Paris and Rome, observing the masters. I did the usual progression: drawing, painting, realism, photorealism, and then I kind of loosened up. Out of that came my bike scribbles.
What inspires you? >> I am primarily inspired by nature.The scribble effect that I developed is all about movement. I view it as a form of “action painting,” a style that artist Jackson Pollack created.
How long does it take to do a sculpture, and what materials do you use? >> It ends up taking about one year from drawing to manufacturing to completing the entire process. Skilled metalworkers use a computerized machine that plasma-cuts steel with a torch.Then, I use weather- resistant, professional-grade graffiti paint from Germany to paint and finish it. I also raise the money independently to do my own sculptures.
Whose idea was it to do the trail sculpture? What are the plans in the future? >> I work directly with Ty Houck and the Greenville County Recreation Department and the Greater Greenville Parks Foundation.We are hoping to create an outdoor museum of art on the trail with a collection of pieces. Over the next two years, we will be recruiting potential Greenville County artists through a request-for-qualifications process.We have ten sites available, and artists will receive a design fee, with a jury reviewing and voting on the ideas. It will be funded by private donations from local businesses, individuals, and groups. The land around the Swamp Rabbit Trail is part county, part city, and partly owned by private entities, so it’s a bit more difficult to coordinate it all.
How far have you gone on a bike? Are you a competitive bike racer? >> The farthest I’ve gone on a bike is 575 miles for the California AIDS ride in 2003. It took seven days. I don’t compete because I don’t want to get injured, and with competition it’s almost a sure thing.
What is your favorite medium? >> The most fun are the 3-D sculptures, because I can make them kinetic, something that moves. I also love oil pastels on paper. Additionally, I have designed, executed, and coordinated over 75 murals so far.
How do you feel about public art in Greenville? Is it on par with other cities? >> San Francisco, Chicago and New York, big cities, don’t need someone like me. I gravitate toward cities that are growing and reimaging themselves. I have an opportunity to expand the cultural landscape that would already exist in a larger city and open it up to local artists. I’m interested in creating a template that communities can apply to their own towns, ultimately combining greenways and public art together.