This year marks the 10th anniversary of the dedication of the water-sculpture, Three Rivers Trailhead, by Arkansas master sculpture Hank Kaminsky. The sculpture is located near the head of the city’s mile-long lighted walking trail, and access to the park’s many amenities.
The three-sided 8-foot high monolithic concrete sculpture appears at a distance to be a large grey native rock with water flowing over it. Closer inspection reveals images, some clear others more subtly rendered onto the rock-like surface. All images, dates and names are important elements of history and heritage chosen for inclusion by people of Van Buren County. A nearby kiosk gives details of the images from Indian maiden to atomic energy, turkeys to ticks.
Sidewalks, kiosk, stone benches and sculpture were built over a five-year period with multiple funding sources, organizations and 220 volunteers. Three Rivers Trailhead is truly the creation and an expression of this community.
Interest in the Arkansas Arts Council’s “Art Among Us” grant began in May 20, 1998, with a small committee headed by Roberta Katz-Messenger, then owner of Pentacle Gallery of Arkansas artists, and board member of the local arts organization North Central Arkansas Foundation for the Arts and Education, based in Fairfield Bay. The Arts Council’s grant awarded $10,000 for the development and creation of a public art project for the county in Clinton, the county seat.
The committee issued a Call to Arkansas Artists, saying, “We seek to speak to all in our community and beyond of our love and respect for our common ground (Main Street Park) preserved for the enrichment of body and spirit. Art is the positive expression of a healthy community.”
“Our community, nestled in a fertile valley is watered by the confluence of three streams which nourish the ne- tropical Ozark watershed and are central to the development and the disasters of our community. Their waters have nourished in drought and destroyed in flood. The streams have divided us and encouraged us to build bridges. They fed the creation of Greers Ferry Lake and its dams and bridges, tourism and traffic. The water has shaped us as surely as it shapes the stones of its stream beds.”
The project aspired to symbolize the community’s confidence in its ability to work together in determine our future and express our values. The people of Van Buren County form a community like our three rivers flow into the valley to make a lake.
The city of Clinton applied and received “Main Street USA”community status and “C.A.R.E.” transformed and expanded its mission. Land for the chosen site was donated by Mildred Thompson and sidewalk improvement grants from TEA and the Arkansas Highway Transportation Department were linked to the public art project.
Three artists’ proposals were submitted. Sept. 23, 2001, 12 days after the 9/11 terrorist attack, the public and a group of county, city and volunteer organization representatives unanimously approved the recommendation of the committee’s choice: Hank Kaminsky, a Fayetteville sculptor.
A grant was submitted in 2002 and was awarded. Work began on gathering historical data and impressions from residents and students.
The triangle shape of structure mimics the geography of the valley of downtown Clinton, which is encased by two rivers that converge in the east and a soft bluff line in the west. The third “river” being Town Branch which flows between the “kiddie park” and the sculpture.
The point of the triangle faces south east in congruence with the flow of Archey Fork and South Fork of the Little Red River which become the headwaters of Greers Ferry Lake. Recirculating water flows over the sides, adding pleasant sound as the viewer discovers the images so linked to the water and rocks of our community.
Native rocks clothe the bottom on the sculpture to imply the rubble at the base of an uplifted rock. Later renovations created a low rock wall. Incorporated in the wall are “signature” rocks from the face of Clinton’s original school building, quarried around 1934 and razed in 2003 to make way for new construction.
About the Artist
Born in New York City and residing in Fayetteville, Hank Kaminsky moved to the Ozark Mountains in 1971. Kaminsky’s lifelong sculpture career has included work from jewelry to the 10’ bronze “Peace Prayer Fountain” in the Fayetteville Town Center and Little Rock Medical Center bronze “Miracle of the Double Helix.”
Much of Kaminsky’s work illustrates the dynamic between geography and language; the physical and the abstract transforming each other.
Making the Sculpture
Sculptor Hank Kaminsky and his crew created the original clay models for the piece in his Fayetteville studio. Nine plaster molds with steel armatures were derived from the clay models and trucked to Clinton. The molds were assembled on the prepared foundation and 36,000 pounds of concrete were poured into the molds. Later, steel and plaster were removed by volunteer adults and children and the rock work and surrounding area finished.
Symbols Depict Our Heritage and History
Kiosk Side: The Indian Spirit
— Depicting a female figure in flowing robes that could be air or water. The geomythical figure suggests the aboriginal or Native American spirit from whose outstretched arms a bowl offers the plenty of the earth.
— The veils of her garments tent a rendition of the Van Buren County Courthouse.
— Lower center, we see the signature of the sculptor.
Main Street Side: The Conquistador
— Spanish Conquistador, Hernando DeSoto, traveled through the area then called “the Provence of Quipana” in the fall of 1541 and is believed to have camped on the flats on Archey Fork river bottoms near the Indian mounds in the vicinity of the airport. His presence on horseback symbolizes the arrival of Europeans in the area and the sweeping changes that would bring.
— An Indian basket design appears in the lower right.
— A bear head and upper body.
— Thunderbird, an eagle in the Indian style.
— Buffalo skull. DeSoto first saw buffalo robes in this area.
— Greers Ferry Lake which was created by a dam dedicated by President John F. Kennedy in October 3, 1963, his last official act before the Dallas assassination.
— Nuclear material sign commemorates the accidental blow up of the missile silo near Damascus, which left a nuclear warhead on the side of Highway 65 in 1980.
— Water images near the 1982 date recall the extreme flood that year which produced wide spread devastation and covered downtown Clinton with 8 or more feet of water.
— A fire that destroyed Clinton in 1869 commemorated with the date and flames.
— A snake appears out of the rock.
Town Branch Side: Train
— The Missouri & North Arkansas Railroad brought the beginnings of the modern world to Van Buren County. Carrying barrel staves to market from the vast local hardwood forests and other local products from 1908 to 1949. The train is traveling over the Railroad Bridge at Shirley which still stands.
— Above the train are images of trees and a turkey.
— “Van Buren County” appears in the upper right. 1833 is the founding date of Van Buren County named for Martin Van Buren.
— Three apple blossoms, our state flower.
— State bird, the mockingbird.
— 1842 County Seat comes to Clinton.
— A tornado: a seasonal danger then and now.
— A cowboy hat symbolizes ongoing relation between man, horse and cow.
— A tick, one of our regions least-loved creatures.
- Hank Kaminsky, Sculptor
- Roberta Katz-Messenger, Coordinator
Public Art Committee
- Brett Blakney, Past Executive Director, Main Street Clinton
- Carol Corning, Executive Director, Main Street Clinton
Funded in part by
- Mildred Thompson, land donor
- 220 Volunteers including donors, officials, businesses and people of Van Buren County
- A grant from the Arkansas Arts Council an Agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage and the National Endowment for the Arts
- Main Street Clinton, TEA grant and Arkansas Highway Transportation Department grant
- City of Clinton
- C.A.R.E., Inc.
- North Central Arkansas Foundation for the Arts and Education
- Alread Community Resource Development Council
Tim Heiple, Architect Heiple and Wiedower
Steve Nunley Construction
Steve Nichols Plumbing