"Midsummer Night's Deam" public art at Mehl Foothills Park.

Doug Kreutz/Arizona Daily Star

The first thing you notice about the shoes is their odd location — lined up on a patch of gravel at George Mehl Foothills Park.

Second thing: The shoes are made not of leather or fabric, but of bronze.

And third: This is one fanciful array of footwear — everything from fairy slippers and dance shoes to sandals and oxfords.

Rebecca Thompson can explain.

The whimsical selection of shoes is the centerpiece of a sculpture she created in 2010 called “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“I wanted to play with the idea of the seen and the unseen world,” Thompson said. She received a commission for the work after winning a competition to create art for the Pima County park.

“I designed large-stone seating and a small Zen garden,” Thompson said. “Within the garden sit the ‘fairy and human shoes’ — all made from desert plant forms that I collected, sewed together, then cast in bronze. It is intended to activate the imagination of fairies and humans running around the park, having left their shoes here in this very spot.”

Thompson said plants will play a role in enhancing a “secret garden” atmosphere around the sculpture.

“It will take time for the trees to grow, but when they do there should be a canopy of palo verde trees for shade, a desert willow and small flowering shrubs,” she said.

“When the trees grow, I hope that the ‘fairy ring’ which they will create will lend the site a secret-garden feel — quite private and lovely.”

The park is at 4001 E. River Road. The sculpture is just inside a northeastern entrance to the park at River and Pontatoc roads.