When the City of Folsom began planning the Johnny Cash Trail, its vision was to build a world-class public art installation in tribute to the legacy of Johnny Cash. In order to bring this vision to life, they were going to need some artists. And not just any artists. The City knew in order to create a top-tier, world-class art destination, it was going to need the help of some world-class artists to get the job done.
In early 2013, the artist search began with a national call for professional artists with the talent and vision to honor the connection between Johnny Cash and the City of Folsom. Thirty-two artists and their teams from all over the United States heeded the call.
After traveling to Folsom and touring the trail that would soon become known as the Johnny Cash Trail, the artists began submitting their applications and ideas.
In the end, twenty official proposals were reviewed by an enthusiastic Art Selection Panel, consisting of local representatives of the Folsom Arts and Cultural Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission, Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Bureau, Folsom Prison, Friends of Folsom Trails, and the project engineer for the Johnny Cash Trail. Rounding out the panel was a representative for the Cash family: Johnny Cash’s daughter, Cindy Cash.
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The twenty submissions were carefully considered by the panel as they were narrowed down to the top eight, and then the top four.
In the end, the panel was unanimous in their decision.
Two artists and their teams consistently ranked highest in every form of the evaluation. In the end, these two artists would see their visions for the trail art come to life.
Interestingly enough, one of the two artists chosen for the Johnny Cash Trail ended up being found in Folsom’s own backyard: local Sacramento artist Adan Romo of Romo Studios, LLC.
Adan Romo, Romo Studios LLC
Adan Romo is a Sacramento native and long-time educator at St. Francis High School in Sacramento. He and his father, Jesus Romo, have been creating public artworks out of Sacramento-based Romo Studios for over 20 years.
Romo has been creating stunning works of public art that can be found all around the region:
Folsom Lake College
North Highlands-Antelope Library
Jesuit High School
St. Francis High School
Sacramento Juvenile Detention Center
Romo Studios has memorialized firefighters and police officers with breathtaking and emotional sculptural works for the California Firefighters Memorial at Sacramento State Capitol Grounds, as well as the Sacramento Public Safety Administration Building.
Sacramento State Capitol Grounds
Sacramento Public Safety Administration Building
Adan’s public work varies from figure sculptures to mosaics to modern panels of acrylic, metal and glass. He has even created a living wall sculpture adorned with 650 succulent plants, copper panels and acrylic accents.
Adan Romo’s Vision for the Johnny Cash Trail
Adan’s vision of the artwork for the Johnny Cash Trail is as diverse as his own portfolio of work.
Adan was selected to create all but one of the art pieces for the Johnny Cash Trail. After he received the news, he spent months fine-tuning his concepts and creating three-dimensional models for approval by Folsom and the Cash Family.
Adan’s work for the trail includes a life-sized bronze sculpture of Johnny Cash with guitar, which will greet the legions of tourists who flock to Folsom Prison to see the place where Cash recorded his live album in front of an audience of inmates and guards in 1968.
Two bronze picks will stand at either end of the trail as 7-foot tall monumental bookends, signaling the beginning and end of the Johnny Cash Trail.
An installation of laser-cut steel poles will tower 10-feet tall, revealing the Man in Black’s likeness at certain angles.
A stone wall will feature hand-written letters from inmates to Cash, a nod to the song Greystone Chapel, originally written by Folsom Prison inmate Glen Sherley, and performed live by Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison.
Three corten-steel guitar necks will stand together to create the Rusty Cage, a piece named for the Soundgarden song cover which appeared on Cash’s grammy award winning 1996 album Unchained.
A glittering Ring of Fire made from individual steel guitar picks will appear to be lit from within when struck by sunlight, and will glow with uplit LED lights at night.
Adan’s visual artwork is only the beginning of the interactive art experience. Trail visitors will find themselves immersed in a complete audio-digital experience; a smartphone app will play audio clips of Johnny Cash narrating tales from his life and career, as well as songs from the legendary musician.
Imagine standing in the shadow of one of Romo’s immense sculptures commemorating the Man in Black, listening to the unmistakable booming baritone of Johnny Cash as he recalls stories and tales of his life and legendary career.
This is the vision that Adan Romo will bring to life.
Folsom went looking nationwide for artists that could do the Johnny Cash Trail justice. Amazingly talented artists and their teams responded. From nearly three-dozen interested artists, only two were selected to bring this project to life. And Sacramento-based Adan Romo’s talented works of art will be placed along the Johnny Cash Trail, inviting trail visitors to relive the connection that will forever be a part of the legacy of a musician, a prison, and a town.