Kipona Festival ends; unique sculpture remains

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Brad Heilman doesn’t need a canvas, clay or a chisel to make art. His tools: a tree and some chainsaws.

He put his unique talents to use over the Labor Day weekend, creating a new sculpture at Front and Walnut streets in Harrisburg meant to honor the city’s culture both past and present.

“Everybody asks, how long will it last? I always say it’s up to the man upstairs. That’s all I can say,” said Heilman.

The sculpture is of a Susquehannock Indian teaching a child about canoeing. Heilman worked on the project throughout the Kipona Festival. It’s titled “The First River School.”

He carved the piece from an ash tree that had been damaged in a storm. City crews had planned to remove the tree until leaders of the Harrisburg Area Riverboat Society came up with the idea for the sculpture. The group runs the Susquehanna River School.

“It’s the idea of teaching people, young people, about this great river we have here in Central Pennsylvania,” said William Cornell.

The group recently broke ground on a new educational park on City Island. The sculpture will serve as a welcome to people crossing the Walnut Street bridge to get to the island.