GREENWAY: POLLY BRANCH ★ Rigsby the Raccoon

Polly Branch fashioned Rigsby the Raccoon out of discarded tires carelessly tossed into the Roanoke River. She created it as part of Art to Rescue the River, a program of Mill Mountain Zoo and Clean Valley Council. The effort challenges artist to create representations of native species from trash found in the river and recovered during community clean-ups.

Rigsby the Raccoon, 2020
Repurposed Car Tires


I’m a native of Roanoke, an artist, and a student of biology and social, spiritual peace work. I’ve used a variety of media to engage with others in problem solving for the benefit of impacted social and natural communities. Art to Rescue the River brought creative attention to the challenge of trash and toxins that end up in the river. I was curious, but cautious not to release more toxins in the creation of Rigsby the Raccoon. It was a great challenge to transform something harmful into something useful and joyful. Since creating Rigsby, a friend and I have recovered more than 150 old tires from a mountain dump site, and they are soon to be recycled.

While in Vic Thomas Park, you’re in for a visual treat. Sculptures by local and regional artists are positioned along the field of wild grasses and beneficial flowers. The seasonal changes are beautiful each time you visit. The next time you walk down to the river, think about our interconnected ecosystems across the Roanoke Valley. And remember to show the children bird and animal tracks in the sand.

Raccoons have five toes and short thumbs, similar to a human hand. As omnivores, they eat all manner of food while on their nighttime excursions. Insects, worms, fruit, nuts, and human food they find in trash cans.

In order to keep Rigsby in good condition, please do not sit or climb on the sculpture. Please do take a selfie, and tell a story. Tell a story. Share a wild and wonderful thing you’ve discovered while exploring parks and arts in Roanoke.

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