Friday, 7 August 2020

On The Art Trail At The Butterfly Park

In 2009 we were approached by Carol Ramsey, a local artist working then for Liverpool Biennial, who had known Mel. She was doing a Fine Art BA as a mature student, and asked if she could make, as her project, some artworks to hang round the Park, based on relevant wildlife. I seem to remember the committee said something like “well, we’ve never thought of that, but we don’t see why not, so yes, go ahead”. Carol made some engraved Perspex drawings of wildlife and hung them round the Park.

Carol got her BA, but had fallen in love with the Park as so many people do, and turned up with a new proposition. “I’m going to do a MA in Fine Art. Can I do an outdoor art trail for the Butterfly Park for the summer? I’ll get a grant to fund it and find other artists to take part, and in return I’ll organise you an Open Day to publicise the Park and bring in some money”. So we said yes of course.

The first Open Day

Carol organised the first Open Day in 2010, installed some of her own work e.g.(t)wigwam, and found other artists to do 3 more pieces: Karon McGunigall (Pupa), Hayley Parfitt (Towers), Emma Kemp and Chris Colville (Elastatone). Carol played a major role in the next few Open Days, until changes in her life and the increasing scale meant that the committee took over as a group.

The Twigwam


In July 2011, Carol applied for and got an “empty shop grant” for bringing unused retail premises back into use, having first convinced the Council that they did have the relevant money from national government. In 2012 she and various friends cleared the shop on Bebington Road, painted it up, and recruited 6 artists to “The Comma Project”. For more information about the project see our blog post, The Butterfly Park and the Community.

Another part of the project was Carol doing considerable work with local schools, in the process designing our first few butterfly-themed simple crafts for children to make: the cotton-bud butterfly and plastic-bag butterfly. We still use the former, including with school groups, when we use it to talk about symmetry and camouflage. The art trial was a great success, Carol wrote up her thesis as a book, and got a well-earned distinction in her degree. Carol started the climb in visitor numbers with her activities, from a few hundred a year in 2009 to, in 2018 and 2019, over 3000.

Some of the art trail was removed at the end of September 2012, but a few pieces remained as permanent features, donated or loaned to the Park: Carol’s Butterfly Bench (subsequently purchased by the Ash family in memory of various family members and donated to the Park), the Pupa (Karon McGunigall), the sundial (Daylight Only by Roy Lewis), Propagate (Terry Hayes), Towers (Hayley Parfitt) and of course the Elastatone (Emma Jean Kemp and Chris Colville). The latter gets heavy use each summer so has to be steadily renewed over time.

Butterfly bench

The Elastone

One of the artists involved, Andrea Bassil (now Mrs Shearing) had local connections at the time. She fell in love with the Park. Her 2012 work was the four Painted Stones, paving slabs painted in great detail with the wildlife of, respectively, the pond, nettle beds, lime waste and long grass. One is marked “For Joy”, the name of her aunt who lived in Wirral and died that summer.

Painted stone

In 2013 Andrea came back and did the Domino set, and in 2014 “Old MacDonald had a Butterfly Park”. Both these are well-used with visitors, especially the uniformed groups who come early evening in summer, and families on Sunday afternoons.

Old MacDonald's Butterfly Park game

New artworks arrived, most with a practical use as well, such as Carol’s Imago Hut in 2013. The Imago Hut started life as an artwork for a World War 2 exhibition in St Luke’s, the bombed-out church in Liverpool which stands as a war memorial. Carol painted war-time memories inside. At the end of that summer, it needed somewhere to go, and NFBP had some money from a grant that had underspent, and we were able to re-purpose to obtaining the Imago hut. Carol re-painted the inside with the butterfly life cycle. The wooden outside (done with scrap wood from local skips) resembles the scales of a butterfly wing. We are still trying to get round to finding a suitable enlarged photo of butterfly wing scales to put up inside! Meanwhile it serves variously as a place for young visitors to run into and find the life cycle, volunteer shelter and chair store.

Imago hut

Volunteers sheltering in the imago hut

The cycle stands installed in 2016 are in the shape of Large White butterfly wings.

Cycle stands

The container artwork, designed by Calum Ramsey with help from his mum Carol, displays our name where train passengers can read it.

The artwork on the container

The art trail booklet, started by Carol for the first few Open Days, became a fully-fledged leaflet in 2019. By then we had 16 artworks, including the Entrance Board, drawn by Vicky Hose in 2006, before Carol introduced us to artworks.

Art trail leaflet

Entrance board

In 2018 Pamela Sullivan made a welcome board especially with our younger visitors in mind. Flaps to lift and a jigsaw to complete introduce them to the wildlife to be found in the Park.

Welcome board
Detail on the welcome board

The Art Trail adds an extra dimension to everyone’s appreciation of the Butterfly Park.

Magnetic jigsaw on the welcome board 
Exploring the welcome board

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