You’ve seen them before. The colorful, abstract bird sculptures scattered throughout Waterfront Park seem as though they’ve always been a part of the landscape. Public art installments such as the Flock of Finns have a way of blending into their surroundings, while still bringing that extra touch of joy into the everyday.
In 2001, Mayor David Armstrong started a public art initiative and commissioned the 28-piece collection of metal sculptures. The birds are meant to replicate their smaller versions originally designed by Louisville folk artist Marvin Finn. Owners of Finn’s work donated pieces to the Armstrong Art Advisory Committee. Artists Melissa Wilson and David Thrasher reproduced the pieces over a six-month period into the half-inch thick steel sculptures that reside on the Waterfront today.
Reviving the Flock
The sculptures toured around Louisville for a year before settling on the Waterfront in 2002. In 2014 however, the pieces were beginning to rust and lose their vibrancy. So, Metro and the commission on Public Art sent the installment to a professional conservation company: the McKay Lodge Fine Arts Conservation Laboratory in Ohio.
The conservators sandblasted each piece down to their original steel facade. Then painstakingly repainted each one using a more durable paint. The intention is for each sculpture to maintain its vibrancy for at least 20 years. The conservators even used digital images and color matching to ensure that each bird perfectly replicated the original work of Finn.
Finn is a cherished folk artist throughout Kentucky, and the United States. Born in 1913, Finn grew up learning to whittle from his father in between working on his family’s farm. He spent his free time trying to whittle spare wood into toys for him and his siblings to play with.
Later in life he moved to Louisville where he met his future wife. He carried on his hobby of toy making for his five children. It wasn’t until 1972 that Finn allowed his creations to be seen publicly. After showing his work at the Kentuckiana Hobby and Gift Show, Finn drew attention from many collectors and other artists. Phyllis George, founder of the Kentucky Art and Craft Foundation (now KMAC), took special interest in Finn as well. Finn’s work remains a mainstay at KMAC since its first gallery show opening in 1984.
As Mayor Armstrong said when originally planning the Flock of Finns installment, “Public art is more than an amenity in the streetscapes and open spaces in our city. It evokes pride and awe in our city from passers-by and it is a gift to every citizen.”
The Flock of Finns installment is located near the corner of Preston and Witherspoon, northeast of the Great Lawn. Visit these colorful birds anytime during park hours: 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily!