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Local sculptures on display at 'ArtCycle

HERSHEY >> What do you get when you gather from Lebanon County a metal worker, a welder and a school teacher, all with extremely busy lives?

One-of-a-kind sculptures featured in Hershey Gardens this summer.

"ArtCycle" is a unique take on nature using materials that once had other purposes: A bridge support at Lebanon Valley College, body parts of Volkswagons or barbed wire fence. The sculptures are an interpretation of nature, adorning the garden that grew from Milton S. Hershey's desire to have a nice bed of roses for his beloved wife.

Eli Weaber

Weaber is a Cedar Crest and LVC graduate and fifth generation steel fabricator in the family business, Miles T. Weaber & Son, Inc. on State Drive in Lebanon. All five generations of Weabers have lived in the same three houses on the same street, Weaber boasts, and his art is sort of a family thing as well. His grandfather made a steel frog that spits water for his family as a fun water feature at home; and his dad dabbles in metal creation, as well. Weaber started making things from the metal scrap he has at work — his first big project of note a 14-foot, 800-lb. caterpillar that he put in his back yard for his kids to climb on. People started noticing what Weaber was making, and requested things from yard decor to necklace pendants. He has shown and sold art at the First Friday Art Walk in Mt. Gretna.

Since starting around 2011 to create art from metal scraps and discarded tools, Weaber has applied strict time limitations on himself for when he works on his art. With a full-time day job in the family business, at night he's needed to help at home with the children, since his wife is working on her master's degree. Weaber works on his art only during breaks and his lunch hour at work. No evenings or weekends can be devoted to the hobby.

Weaber has nine items in Hershey Gardens this year, some of them grouped as a single exhibit (like three marching ants together make one piece). When the exhibit concludes, he plans to donate the caterpillar (made in part with steel supports on a former version of the LVC walking bridge) to the children's garden at Hershey Gardens as a permanent piece.

Shane Morgan

Morgan is a welder by trade and also a plumber and pipe fitter whose first taste of being an artist was in art class at Palmyra High School.

Back then, he did lots of drawings and watercolor, but when he learned to weld (five years in apprenticeship school) he turned metal into art.

Morgan has had shows and displays around the region, and his art is distinct. He only creates things that are connected with nature — like creatures or insects — and he only uses parts from Volkswagons.

"I make life-looking objects out of car metal and steel," Morgan explained.

One of the first ArtCycle sculptures guests come upon at Hershey Gardens is a giant sea turtle that appears to be doing a deep dive, as if it were in the ocean. Not only are the parts Volkswagons of old, but so are the colors. The blues and oranges, for example, are the paint that a Volkswagon left the factory with years ago. Morgan doesn't usually paint over the metal, nor does he alter the authentic rust that comes with age.

Morgan himself is a Volkswagon aficionado, driving vintage VWs and owning several parked in storage. Some of his earliest memories are traveling the art show circuit in his family's red VW bus. Since people identify him with VWs, friends and event acquaintances will tell him when they've seen old VWs long-ago abandoned or junked — providing more raw material for Morgan's art.

Morgan also has limited time to work on his art. After his preschool-age son goes to bed, "I make time here and there," he said. It takes him between six and eight months to complete a piece. "It's still fun to me."

He has three pieces in ArtCycle at Hershey Gardens.

Scott Farmer

Farmer, a resident of Elizabethtown, is a teacher at Palmyra High School and has his first piece of art on display in ArtCycle.

A few years ago, Hershey Gardens featured an exhibit about capturing the wind, and he built the tree to let his high school students make the leaves for the exhibit. That's how he came on the radar when the Milton S. Hershey Foundation was planning this exhibit for the Gardens.

He agreed to do the art, but didn't have an idea of what to do.

"I looked at all the junk in my shed," Farmer explained. "I found a mosquito in the junk."

Not a miniscule insect that causes humans to itch and scratch, but the pieces the create a metal sculpture of a mosquito.

Since Farmer made the bug art, the Hershey Foundation folks realized they have room for one more sculpture in the Gardens, so Farmer is in the process of making a bird to be delivered.

Making art of out metal scraps is the smallest time segment of Farmer's busy life right now. In addition to teaching full time at Palmyra, he is a part-time adjunct professor at Millersville University and is the current president of the Technology and Engineering Education Association of Pennsylvania.

The exhibit

ArtCycle will be in Hershey Gardens until September 20. In addition to the three Lebanon County artists, Jason Lyons of Harrisburg has pieces in the exhibit using man-made items that have been discarded as refuse (such as turning oil cans into an armadillo).

Hershey Gardens is open daily (check for weather-related closings) and features ArtCycle this summer and the popular Butterfly House (open through September 13) in the cost of admission. General admission to the Gardens is $10.50 for visitors age 13-61, $9.50 for ages 62 and up and $7.50 for ages 3-12, ages 2 and younger are free.

The ArtCycle exhibit at the Gardens is unique for several reasons, according to Anthony Haubert, representing the M.S. Hershey Foundation.

"We have discarded items and refuse recycled into great art," Haubert said. "It's one of the more interesting exhibits we've had because it's nature-inspired, local art and recycled items."