CCAD grad designed Columbus destination Topiary Garden Park
Columbus College of Art & Design grad James Mason (Advertising & Graphic Design, 1971) created many extraordinary topiary sculptures that can be seen in such places as Atlanta, Georgia, and Palo Alto, California. But in his hometown of Columbus, he was best known for his work (with his then-wife Elaine Mason) the city’s Topiary Garden Park in the downtown Discovery District.
Inspired by Georges Seurat’s 1884 painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, which was depicted in oil on canvas, the Masons’ park project brings alive almost all the figures seen in the original painting in the form of artfully sculpted yew trees. According to Atlas Obscura, just one of many outlets to take note of the unusual park, it “consists of 54 people, eight boats, three dogs, a monkey, and a cat, all in the form of topiary sculptures.” Further, notes Atlas Abscura, Topiary Garden Park is “the only topiary representation of a painting in the world.” The seven-acre park, part of Columbus Recreation & Parks and formerly home of the Ohio School for the Deaf, was officially dedicated in 1992.
Mason died in January 2022 at age 83 following an extended battle with cancer, reported The Columbus Dispatch. However, his legacy lives on with Topiary Park, which, through the decades, has been a must-visit destination for tourists and Columbus residents alike.
Mason served in the U.S. Air Force, and during his time stationed in France, he explored and drew inspiration from art he found across Europe. After his time in the service, he headed to CCAD, where he completed his bachelor’s degree in 1967, reported The Columbus Dispatch. Mason’s interest resided most in sculpting. According to the Dispatch, Mason was one of the founders of the Columbus Cultural Arts Center and taught sculpture classes there full-time from 1978 to 2009, and part-time until the mid-2010s.
Mason’s contribution to arts in Columbus is like none other. A celebration of life in his honor is planned for the spring.