Paper birds reflect city’s hopes

Sandhill cranes are no strangers to Jackson County at certain times of the year.

They can be viewed at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in late winter and early spring, resting while on their annual migration. They also have been known to flock to other areas in the county, including the Ewing bottoms and near Rockford, where upward of 10,000 birds can be seen at once.

Now, the birds have landed in downtown Seymour thanks to a new Seymour Main Street art exhibit on display at the Knights of Pythias building, 103 N. Chestnut St.

Silver Sandhills of Seymour is an original and unique origami crane exhibit, a vision created by artist Wendy Eilers of St. Louis.

The “sculpture” of 1,000 origami cranes made from silver paper hangs from the ceiling, creating a dramatic effect of cranes in flight. The silver paper represents the sparkle of sunlight.

It is inspired by the sandhill cranes that travel through Seymour on their migratory path every year and allows the visitor to pause the action of the birds taking off in flight in order to experience their hopeful ascent, Eilers said.

Cranes were made by more than 200 children and adults throughout Jackson County, including from Crothersville Elementary School, Seymour Middle School Sixth Grade Center, Margaret R. Brown and Seymour-Redding elementary schools, Working for Our Dreams Hispanic 4-H Club, Zion Lutheran Church English as a Second Language class, students of Southern Indiana Center for the Arts, volunteers at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge and patrons of the Seymour Library.

The paper birds also have been provided by people from Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin.

For most of the contributors, it was their first time attempting origami, which is the Japanese art of paper folding, Eilers said.

However, a local group of Japanese women, called Sakura Helping Hands, also has been involved in the project, making additional origami paper cranes and cherry blossoms for the building’s front window displays.

As Japanese legend goes, if a person makes 1,000 paper cranes in less than a year, their wish will be granted, Eilers said.

“Seymour is such a town with the hope and patience to wait for the wish to be granted,” Eilers said. “These Silver Sandhills of Seymour symbolize the hope for the town that the cranes bring each year.”

Seymour Main Street hopes to sell the Knights of Pythias building to a business and continue attracting people downtown, said Julie Huff, Main Street president.

“This exhibit allows us to showcase our building, has created a partnership with many other nonprofits in the community and has helped guide people to the downtown,” she said.

More than 30 people took part in an unofficial opening of the exhibit May 24. Eilers talked about her inspiration for the exhibit.

Huff said she heard of Eilers through a mutual friend in Jennings County.

“This friend knew that I had gone to work for Main Street and that Wendy was interested in having an exhibit in the Midwest,” Huff said.

But she needed a special building for the installation because of its size.

“The exhibit is big — 12 feet high and 12 feet long and 12 feet wide — so it couldn’t be just any building,” Huff said. “But our building was perfect for it.”

Public hours for the exhibit are from noon to 5 p.m. every Thursday and Friday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 20, July 18, Aug. 15, Sept. 19 and Oct. 17.

Receptions will be from 5 to 7 p.m. June 20 and Sept. 19 and will include refreshments and an opportunity to meet and talk to Eilers. Guests attending the receptions also will be able to make their own origami cranes to take home. The wildlife refuge will have information about sandhill cranes available, and additional arts and crafts may be offered.

Additional hours and field trips are available by appointment by calling Huff at 317-696-2635.

Admission to both the exhibit and receptions is free.

Huff said that so far the feedback from people who have seen the cranes has been positive.

“There are different groups coming in putting up more things, and people are stopping in on their way to lunch to see what we are doing,” she said. “Our farthest away visitor was from San Francisco. She had a granddaughter who had made a crane, and she was in town visiting her and wanted to come see the display.”

Besides the origami exhibit, Huff said they plan to add a photography display of sandhill cranes and are looking for artists to submit their work.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s amateur or professional, we would love to display them,” she said.

To keep the exhibit open for public viewing hours, Huff said Seymour Main Street also is in need of volunteers.

“We are always looking for people to get involved and join Main Street so we can continue to bring things like this downtown,” she said.

If you go

Silver Sandhills of Seymour is an original and unique origami crane exhibit, a vision created by artist Wendy Eilers of St. Louis.

It’s on display at the Knights of Pythias building at 103 N. Chestnut St.

Public hours for the exhibit are from noon to 5 p.m. every Thursday and Friday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 20, July 18, Aug. 15, Sept. 19 and Oct. 17.

Receptions will be from 5 to 7 p.m. June 20 and Sept. 19 and will include refreshments and an opportunity to meet and talk to Eilers.

Admission to both the exhibit and receptions is free.

Additional hours and field trips are available by appointment by calling Seymour Main Street President Julie Huff at 317-696-2635.

Wendy Eilers

Wendy Eilers was raised in southern Illinois and is known for architectural and landscape watercolors along with origami.

She started painting about 20 years ago while in high school and received a degree in fine arts from Eastern Illinois University. She then moved to Cincinnati and started selling her paintings more commercially.

Eilers spent seven years in New York City, where she took classes through the Art Students League in Manhattan and had her studio in her home.

In 2013, she moved to St. Louis and was chosen as a resident artist at the Foundry Art Center in St. Charles, Missouri. 

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.