Bernheim’s Spirit Nest presents art with multipurpose space

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Designed as a human-sized bird nest that can be accessed by a staircase in the back, the installation provides a unique view and experience for guests. Around its base, tree stumps create a “natural amphitheater” to gather and will serve as a multipurpose space for storytelling, educational programs and musical performance. Fann is also constructing a drum from a large maple trunk to add an interactive component. The Spirit Nest is located in Zone 2 of Bernheim’s new Playcosystem, which, once all three zones are finished, will create a 10-acre natural playground. Zone 1 opened last month.

The Spirit Nest, Playcosystem and artist Thomas Dambo’s Forest Giants, which were introduced in 2019, are examples of Bernheim’s expanding outreach to connect people with nature and attract visitors from across the region, state and country. “I like to create spaces that really inspire people’s creativity and their connection with nature,” Fann said Thursday while he and a team of volunteers added finishing touches to the installation. “This is the perfect confluence of those two personal passions I have: Being in nature and creating art.”

For artist Fann, the Spirit Nest will hopefully create a space for guests to relax, connect and create. Fann is also passionate about music and many of the spaces he creates are used as performance venues.

“The Spirit Nest itself looks like it’s always been here,” she said. “Some of these bigger projects that we’ve done really bring people out to Bernheim and they have a greater impact,” Bernheim Arts in Nature Curator Jenny Zeller said. Fann’s work stood out to Zeller as a unique opportunity to complement the forest’s mission to connect people with nature.

The Spirit Nest at Bernheim has been under construction for about six weeks and is one of 12 installations Fann is working on this year, with projects in Arizona, Wisconsin, Colorado, California and other locations.    Fann has been building sculptures with natural materials since he was just 9 years old. Over the years, his work has not only grown in size but also purpose and recognition.

“Nature has a lot to teach us and when we work in partnership with nature we can do beautiful things,” he said. “I’m traveling all over the country all the time and in each community, I’m also working with local musicians and conservationists and other artists,” he said, adding he is working on a documentary series in which he interviews and collaborates with artists and craftsmen. With each project he completes, Fann aims to inspire others to appreciate the world around them.

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