Artist honors father with artwork to benefit River Bend Trail
Mitchell A. Skurzewski
The River Bend Trail continues to not only provide good and increasingly scenic views of Merrill, but the trail itself has gotten some added artwork to spruce it up.
Mary Robinson was quite surprised when she found out her father wanted artwork to be on display in the Agra-Pavilion on Merrill’s River Bend Trail. Her father Bob Gruling was a huge advocate and supporter of River Bend Trail.
“None of us knew he wanted artwork on the wall there,” Robinson said. “Gene Bebel, dad’s best friend, called me and asked if I had something in my closet to put at the pavilion. I said I will look at the space and make a new piece. It was interesting and I was so delighted with the space.”
Gruling left money to go towards artwork and was a big advocate for the trail. Robinson said she wanted to create something special that included history of Merrill and it’s water. When Greg Hartwig, member of Friends of the River Bend Trail, mentioned improved fishing and adaptive fishing for handicap folks, with a pier going in on the trail, Robinson knew what to make.
Robinson created a piece of art – a fish made of repurposed cardboard and aluminum- and it includes sticks from the trail for the spine and water from the riverfront in the piece.
“I helped dad through the years as his health deteriorated with markers and things (on the trail),” Robinson said. “This is a spiritual piece for me, being for my dad and growing up on the Wisconsin River and growing up in Merrill…it’s special.”
Robinson said it is great to provide something for her dad, as he was so passionate about Merrill. Merrill is still home for her brother Tim, her mother and where she grew up. Robinson now lives on Wausau’s east side. Tim Gruling also works with Agra and has volunteered time to refurbishing the pavilion where the artwork hangs.
“It is so special,” Robinson said. “I grew up in Merrill and it will always be special. It’s always going to be home. My mom is still involved with organizations in Merrill and they go and see the artwork and she just loves that.”
Robinson and the Gruling family went down to dedicate the fish artwork with a artist sign on May 5, her father Bob’s birthday.
Hartwig said that he hopes more artwork will grace the trail and pavilion.
Local artists have painted a mural representing downtown Merrill and the trail continues to grow.
“It is definitely nice to have,” Hartwig said.” “We would love to see more artwork on the trail.”
“Bob really supported the trail, so it made sense and it will be on display in the Agra-Pavillion,” Hartwig added. “Bob loved the trail and this is a cool way to honor him and benefit the trail.”
Construction of an addition to the actual River Bend Trail was completed in 2017, making the walking and biking trail three miles in length and plans are to extend the trail to be able to walk all the way from the Business District to Wal-Mart. The Agra Pavilion hopes to be complete in September with all but the flooring being done by August 24th’s second annual pig roast.