Mystical, Magical Manholes?

Nature isn’t the only thing you’ll discover in the back woods of Hallsley. While venturing through the miles of trails that loop around the southern-most portion of this nationally award-winning new home community, you can admire the beauty of nature, including trees, rolling hills, ravines, and creeks. However, there are also some things that aren’t as Mother Nature intended. Concrete manholes were installed along the way and were a distraction from the natural landscape. Recognizing that they aren’t the most attractive feature in Hallsley, the developer felt they needed to take an innovative approach to enhance the look of these utilities.

After researching the success stories of other communities that took their less attractive utilities and turned them into pieces of art, East West Communities reached out to a local, budding artist, 18-year-old Sarah Morgan. Just graduating from high school, Morgan will be attending VCU in the fall as a freshman studying art.

When asked about her inspiration for the manhole designs, Morgan stated, “The Hallsley team gave me a list of things they wanted me to include in the manhole designs like trees, butterflies, birds, flowers, rainbow, animals, water, fish, etc. The rest was up to me as to how I wanted to combine those and make them fit together in a composition that worked for the space I had.”

With her passion for art, Morgan has designed and painted seven different manholes along the trails where she has captured the essence of both nature, fantasy, and the amenities of Hallsley. Drawing and painting since she was just three years old, Morgan still does not know exactly how to explain her artistic style; but does note it as being “pretty open, but definitely whimsical, free, loose, colorful, and bright.”

For the project, Morgan explained how she wanted to focus on the major shapes of the subjects and then go back in with detail so it looked clean but detailed enough to be interesting and pretty. “The style of the manholes sort of came out of the original idea of just making sure that they’d make people smile when they walked or ran past,” said Morgan. Ecstatic with the outcome, Morgan admitted, “It was more about the emotion I wanted people to feel when they looked at them rather than a specific style; and so as it turned out, a more imaginative and animated look ended up working well.”

These concrete structures have been colorfully re-created with a little paint and a lot of talent to depict the animals that inhabit the community, such as blue heron, deer, owls, beavers, turtles, and raccoons; as well as the mystical creatures of unicorns and fairies that inhabit the minds of Hallsley residents and the imagination of their children. East West Community’s Director of Marketing Connie Pollard explained, “The residents can now be delighted as they discover these works of art that have turned our trail system into a mystical forest.”