Scioto Park doesn't include the final resting place of Leatherlips, the Wyandot chief. But it does feature a sculpture that helps visitors reflect on the past and maybe even learn some history.

Editor's note: The first in an eight-part series on public art in Dublin.

Scioto Park doesn't include the final resting place of Leatherlips, the Wyandot chief. But it does feature a sculpture that helps visitors reflect on the past and maybe even learn some history.

Often called Leatherlips Park, Scioto Park, 7377 Riverside Drive, houses Dublin's first piece of public art and includes a wealth of history and significance for the ever-growing city.

"People don't always know Scioto Park, but as soon as you say 'Leatherlips,' they know," said Janet Cooper, Dublin Arts Council marketing and public relations manager. "For many of the people, it usurps the name of the park."

Work on the Leatherlips sculpture began more than 20 years ago when the Dublin Arts Council decided to commission the city's first piece of public art. According to a Nov. 28, 1988, article in the Dublin Villager, the project drew submissions from more than 100 artists from the U.S. and Europe. Elizabeth Armstrong of Minneapolis' Walker Art Center, Jacqueline Crist of the Los Angles Museum of Contemporary Art and Chicago sculpture Richard Hunt were chosen as judges for the project, but not before being given guidelines on what the city wanted.

Parks and open space director Fred Hahn said the city wanted something significant.

"I think one of the things that the community was hoping for was something, given that this was the first piece of public art, that had historical significance to it, something that really played up to Dublin's past with Native Americans. I think the idea of a reflection of Dublin's past was important," Hahn said.

"It is historically significant on lots of levels," said David Guion, Dublin Arts Council executive director. "Chief Leatherlips, somewhere on the Scioto River, was executed."

Scioto Park isn't far from Leatherlips' final resting place, which is marked by a headstone erected in 1889.

Leatherlips was executed in 1810 by other Wyandot Indians on the charge of witchcraft. According to local history, the charges were false and Leatherlips was killed because he refused to join a movement against white Ohio settlers.

The design that currently stands in Scioto Park was submitted by Boston artist Ralph Helmick. The $70,000 project was funded by Dublin's bed tax.

At the dedication on May 1, 1990, Helmick said his work was meant to bring together the past and future of the Scioto River.

"Our goal was to make a special place within a special place to mirror the environment, to provide a place to reflect, to meditate and to concentrate upon the land. The stone for the sculpture came out of the ground. As Dublin grows, in looking at the sculpture people can remember the land before it was a park and understand the Indian value of stewardship of the land," he said. "I would like to reflect on Leatherlips, who reflected upon the honor of his people."

Wyandot Nation Chief Leaford Bearskin, of Wyandotte, Okla., also was at the dedication to bless the site with a ceremonial pipe.

"It was a pretty neat ceremony," Hahn said.

Since the sculpture was constructed, Cooper said students go there to learn and residents go there to relax. The sculpture still prompts curiosity.

"We get calls on the educational front from people who use that as a prompt to really want to know more about the Leatherlips story," Cooper said.

The sculpture was given to the city many years ago and Hahn said the work has stood the test of time.

"Leatherlips was well constructed to begin with. It's got a strong foundation," he said. "The artist knew what he was doing. The maintenance has been very, very minimal on it, which obviously could have encouraged the (art in public places) program to keep going because we're not dedicating a lot of resources to the upkeep of it."