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'Ties that bind'

Sculptor Phagan creates
winning art piece for Lytle Park

By Amy Casebier
Contributing Writer

(August 2007) – Lytle Park will soon have a new artistic addition that illuminates one of Madison’s darkest times with a positive light.
The City of Madison has chosen Eric Phagan’s sculpture design for the park from about 12 applicants. Titled “the Ties that Bind,” Phagan welded more than 330 railroad spikes together to construct the life-size figure of a man. All the spikes were once used in Jefferson County.

Eric Phagan

Photos by Amy Casebier

Sculptor Eric Phagan (top) says his
work depicts Madison’s industrial era.
His sculpture (below) will be
displayed in Madison’s Lytle Park.

Eric Phagan Sculpture

“When the railroad came into Madison, people and businesses left,” Phagan said. “That shaped who we are today.”
Madison suffered an economic and growth decline when new railroads and less river traffic took some of the area’s trade away, but the city did not die.
“Madison got frozen in time,” Phagan said. “It turned into a positive thing.”
The statue reflects the idea that while the railroads negatively affected Madison’s economy, they also caused the community to come together.
Phagan took three weeks to complete the statue. In addition to the time it spent to finish it, Phagan said that his biggest challenge was using the straight and simple spikes to create a round, complex form.
“It’s not typical, it’s a little contemporary,” he said. “The piece works for the community.”
Phagan’s piece for Lytle Park is part of an initiative from the City of Madison to recognize and support local artists. Last year, the Special Projects Administration supported two murals – one at Main Street Station and the other at the Senior Citizen’s Center. Both murals highlight features and people of the town.
“Madison has a deep and wonderful pool of artists,” Betsey Vonderheide, director of the Special Projects Administration, said. “They need a little recognition.”
Since Madison’s many visitors easily walk around town, more artwork in public could help showcase the talents of local artists, Vonderheide said.
“This is a beginning, we hope,” she said. “This art community is so strong and it’s growing.”
Installation for Phagan’s “the Ties that Bind” is set for some time before the Madison Ribberfest in mid-August.
One of Madison’s next artistic additions will be one of the submissions for the Lytle Park sculpture that was not chosen. Madison Mayor Al Huntington decided it was appropriate for the waterfront, and the piece will probably be installed in the future Bicentennial Park, Vonderheide said.

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