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Morehead Turtle Walk highlighting Sheltowee Trail opens Phase 2

The second phase of Morehead’s Turtle Walk is here, and the Rowan County Art Center is looking for sponsors and artists.

The Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail stretches 343 miles, from Kentucky to Tennessee. It’s named for Daniel Boone, who in 1778 was captured and adopted by Shawnee Native Americans. The natives gave Boone the name “Sheltowee”, meaning “Big Turtle”, and the route he took through Appalachia bears that name.

Ashley Gilliam is the Arts and Culture Director for Rowan County Tourism. She said the famous trail was at the forefront of their minds as they considered a public art installation.

“We decided to choose the land turtle as the face of our walk because we’re very proud of the fact that this recreation trail starts in Rowan County,” Gilliam said.

Now, 21 nearly 40-pound turtles stand knee-high at various locations in the Morehead and Rowan County communities. The very first turtle was painted by local artist Nona Camuel, who has participated in multiple art projects in the community over the years.

Camuel said she wanted her blue and green turtle to represent the calming feeling of walking the Sheltowee Trace.

“The first thing was drawing the thing on there that I was going to put on there and deciding what the Zen doodles were going to look like and what colors I was going to use, and kind of figuring all that out. And then I would just do a little bit at a time and gradually work on it. And then towards the end after I got all the colors on, it was kind of outlining everything so that they would stand out,” Camuel said.

The Zen turtle was selected by lottery to be placed at Saint Claire HealthCare Hospital. Camuel said it’s fitting that her design ended up in front of a building that had a big impact on her life.

“I was excited that it was going to be at the hospital because that’s what brought us to Morehead back in 1979 because my husband was with the hospital then. So, I thought that was also appropriate for maybe a little bit of calm if somebody’s coming to the hospital and they’re nervous,” she said.

Camuel’s turtle is one of four outside the medical centers. Camuel said all the artists involved in the turtle walk have done beautiful work.

“Another good one is Kaylee Thornsberry, her turtles are great. I think she did the bingo hall one that looks like a big piggy bank and has coins coming out of it. So, there’s a lot of good ones,” said Camuel.

All the statues along US 60 and Main Street in Morehead are unique. Artist Steffani Radcliff painted one outside Fuzzy Duck Coffee Shop, which sports a white duck cracking open a book atop the turtle’s shell.

Continuing down West Mainstreet, inside First Baptist Church is a spring-time-inspired turtle titled “Hum of the Bees” by artist Abbie Grace. It’s covered with various colored flowers and butterflies with several yellow and black bees around the shell.

Inside the courthouse on West Main Street is another turtle, proudly displayed by the Rowan County Fiscal Court. Dylan Lambert is the Director of Operations for the Fiscal Court. He said he feels their galaxy-inspired turtle fits in perfectly.

“We were excited from the get-go. All of them that I’ve seen have been so beautiful. Ours that we have at the courthouse; and we hope to get another one for another one of our facilities in the second phase, but ours is more of a starry night, galaxy-esq, darker kind of turtle. And it’s beautiful, we get a lot of compliments on it. But it’s kind of the luck of the draw on what you end up with, but we feel pretty lucky,” said Lambert.

Created by Alison Baker, the courthouse turtle has blues, purples, and pinks that contrast brightly against the deep black paint that covers most of the statue. It features a moon and stars with a campsite and hiker traversing the top of the shell.

Lambert said the Turtle Walk has brought in plenty of foot traffic to the courthouse.

“It’s something unique for the people of Rowan County and the people that come to Rowan County to enjoy. So, we’re very proud to be a part of it and very thankful for the work that tourism did to get this accomplished,” Lambert said.

Ashley Gilliam agreed with Lambert’s notion that the turtle walk brings positivity to the community.

“I think that any time that we can bring art into the community it’s going to be a good thing, and plus it’s something that everyone can enjoy. Whether you’re an artist or just a visitor that’s walking by and sees a colorful turtle. I think it also brings more visitors to our community as well,” said Gilliam.

Anyone interested in signing up to be an artist or sponsor for the second phase of the turtle walk can find more at https://www.rowancountyartscenter.com/.