Art Meets Nature in a Landmark Education Self-Expression and Leadership Project

brumwoods.jpgWhen high school art teacher Sheri Focke had a Japanese Ceramic artist speak to her students she had no idea that it would lead her on a journey into the woods.

As participant in the Landmark Self Expression and Leadership Program, she had an assignment to create a project that made a difference in her community.

As a teacher, Sheri has always looked for new ways to reach her students, especially the ones who face learning challenges.

Inspired by the theories of Richard Louve, and the nurturing impact that the outdoors has on people, she chose to combine art and the outdoors in a project called Friends of Brum Woods.


In 1993, Batesville, Indiana resident Lena Brum passed away and in her will, left 80 acres of land to the citizens of Batesville.  She was a great lover of nature and wanted to leave a piece of the natural world intact as part of her legacy.  However the city’s recreation department is small and has very little money for infrastructure improvements.   As it turns out Sheri’s project was timed perfectly because wasn’t until 2006 that the land was designated as a park by the city.    Sheri as part of her project, “Friends of the Brum Woods”, invited local l community members to participate in creating an outdoor gallery that integrate works of art into the natural environment of Brum woods. sheri-focke.JPG All the works of art that have been created are actually in the woods.  Two nature paths have been created  that take people past works of art that include  wood sculptures, teepees, trellises, totem poles.  All created out of the natural environment of Brum Woods.

While the project initially got off to a slow start, it now has an endowment from a local citizen of  $100,000.

Here is the story from the Batesville Herald Tribune:

Group wants woods improved

Debbie Blank

Three members of the resurrected Friends of Brum Woods group spoke to Batesville Parks and Recreation Board members July 19 about four improvements they would like to see at the woods – more parking, a shelter, restrooms and trail crossing caution signs on Huntersville Road.

Jamie Schantz pointed out the meadow on the south side of State Road 229 just before it curves at Huntersville Road “is not very accessible” for people wanting to picnic or admire the perennial garden there. The nearest parking is on South Mulberry Street, then visitors must spend about seven minutes hiking through the woods to get to the clearing.

According to Schantz, “Sheri (Focke) has been a driving force” in getting volunteers activated. Schantz and Focke met with Park Commissioner Mike Baumer about the parking issue before the meeting. “We’re looking at the possibility” of six to eight gravel parking spaces on the south side of S.R. 229 between Mulberry Street and the curve. Schantz added, “I know it’s off of a state highway” so the Indiana Department of Transportation must approve the plan. “It’s the only way to get people to that area, so I think it’s worth considering.”

Baumer said he would check with the Batesville High School industrial technology teacher about students building a shelter, which could provide shade and another important asset, water. Now “it’s really hard to plant flowers or trees and be able to get water to them.” Volunteers have been transporting gallon jugs to the site.

Schantz said if a water supply is brought to Brum Woods, adding restrooms just makes sense.

Caution signs are needed so drivers slow down on Huntersville Road as children on trails scamper across. That may be the easiest improvement to attain. Mayor Rick Fledderman reported the street department has a sign machine and could probably produce those.

Greg Lindemann, another member of Friends of Brum Woods, asked about spending the interest on the Lena Brum estate left to the city. Schantz said the group was told earlier it was for the woods’ upkeep. Clerk-Treasurer Ron Weigel said about $106,000 remains in a CD.

Baumer will come up with cost estimates. BPRB President Bob Fitzpatrick noted, “It would be up to Mike and the park board” to decide how money is spent. “There needs to be a prioritizing of that list.” Baumer will explore their recommendations.

Schantz said volunteers have formed garden and trails subcommittees. “We know if we plant a garden, we can’t expect the park people to take care of all that.” She is looking for members interested in planting and caring for the meadow area, much like the Batesville Beautification League maintains landscaping in other parts of town. Gardening work sessions will take place every other week, alternating mornings with evenings.

Baumer reported Focke’s husband, Matthew, is refurbishing the original Brum Woods plaque, which features a portrait of the benefactor.

Friends member Margie Harmeyer proposed “something a little special in Lena’s memory” at the Mulberry Street entrance. “A nicer plaque … since she donated the land.”

Debbie Blank can be contacted at (812) 934-4343, Ext. 113; or debbie.blank@ To comment on stories, visit


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