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Art Without Borders

Art Without Borders

Danny Hamen

Wildflowers color the hilltop meadows… open air art

These words—emblazoned on a goliath stone resting alongside a zigzagging woodland trail—reverberate through the trees as they are read aloud. The Japanese translation of the haiku, along with the phonetic pronunciation, is carved in a gingko leaf-shaped plaque on the side of an enormous rock.

The poem echoes softly in my mind as I lazily pace my way through the Holmes County Open Air Art Museum. This is one of dozens of haiku stones that are scattered across the trail—the first arrival of a series of installations that make up the outdoor gallery. As my guide leads me through the winding trail, each haiku stone we happen upon tells the story of the seasons, an idea conceived and executed by Julie Warther, the regional coordinator of the Haiku Society of America.

“It really is an encounter. We place them around a bend so you don’t see them coming, and so when you approach them there is a giant stone with a poem.”

Open air art is a cornerstone of European culture, and is something that Jason Nies, proprietor of The Inn at Honey Run  and curator of the outdoor museum, wanted to share with all of Ohio.

“In my 20s, I went to Latvia quite a bit to visit family. While I was over there, I went to an open air art museum, and it was the coolest art experience I had ever seen. I always knew I wanted something like that.”

At the time, Nies didn’t have a getaway resort at his disposal to store such a magical amenity, so when he purchased The Inn at Honey Run in historic Millersburg, Ohio, he thought what time better than now to bring his dream to fruition?

Nies’ outdoor gallery spans across a mile and a half long trail alongside the resort—an almost hidden footpath peppered with artwork from artists from around the state. One of the most notable pieces is a massive, wooden installation, entitled “Woven.” Fabricated by Columbus artist Walter Herrmann, the structure is made of materials collected exclusively from the grounds at The Inn at Honey Run. Described as an Earthwork installation, Herrmann’s piece consists of thousands of sticks woven together to create an outdoor archway and outer wall, dredging up images from whimsical woodland tales like Where the Wild Things Are.

“It’s cool to just let the artists go nuts,” said Nies with an enthusiastic smile. “Initially, we just hike the trail together, and then I encourage the artist to construct whatever inspired them from the walk.”

It is this type of creative freedom that arouses a variety of different types of art: woven structures, a colossal totem pole, haiku stones, or something as seemingly irreverent as 12,000 paint sticks swinging gently from an overhead net. As we wander through the trail together, I see Nies’ passion project comes to life with each passing piece of art.

Another notable installation—conceived of and created on the grounds of the Holmes County Open Air Art Museum—is by Columbus-based tattoo artist Katharine Marie, who built a gargantuan cuckoo clock made of mostly organic materials found on site. Her piece, “Being Time,” stands over 15 feet tall, and invites an organic feeling of natural whimsy, a mesmerizing display of artistry and craft hidden in the middle of nowhere.

“The woods were illuminated, the sound of the inner clockwork rang through the woods to create an all sensory experience, and ‘Being Time’ was lit up for the first time for all guests to view,” said Marie, reflecting on her work’s debut.

As we finish the short hike, I reflect on Nies’ gallery—a delightful homage to European artisty veiled in the shade of foliage and fallen snow along a short wooded trail. With each stop, I felt the undeniable tug of inspiration—for me, art paired with nature just seems to make sense. With each season breathes a new aesthetic, an ever-changing backdrop providing new settings, making for a rotating gallery of sorts. Nies vows to continue building and expanding the project, making his open air art museum bigger and better with each passing year, an evolving concept lost amongst the trees. 

Calling all Columbus Artists!

Interested in creating a feature installation for the Holmes County Open Air Art Museum?

The Inn at Honey Run and the Greater Columbus Arts Council would like to welcome Franklin County and surrounding area artists, sculptors, designers, photographers and imaginative thinkers of all kinds to participate in this highly unique opportunity, where up to three installations for the Holmes County Open Air Art Museum (OAAM) will be selected. Contest concludes May 31.

Contest details, requirements, registration, and information are available at

For more information or assistance with submissions, please contact Alexandra Corron at [email protected]

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