Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 14, 2013

Art Rapids! creates sculpture installation in Elk Rapids

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — ELK RAPIDS — It won’t be long before Elk Rapids’ “Walk of Art” outdoor exhibition begins to take shape.

Six sculptors selected by Art Rapids! are preparing their work for installation next month at the Elk Rapids Day Park, a 15-acre stretch of hardwoods, pines, dunes, wildflowers and beach extending a quarter-mile along East Grand Traverse Bay.

Installation of art work — one at a time — will be scheduled between May 1-20, said Sherri DeCamp, Art Rapids! board member and chair of the Walk of Art committee.

Additional sculptures, up to a maximum of 30, will be added in 2014 and 2015, she said. Placement of sculptures and any changes in the park have to meet county approval.

“Our big focus right now is getting the park opening,” she said. “This park will grow slowly. We won’t remove anything natural to put up art and we won’t interfere with the purpose of the park, which is recreation.”

Sculptors selected this year by Art Rapids! judges are:

- Pat Innis, an environmental artist who lives and has her studio in Alden. She is education director of the Michigan Legacy Art Park at Crystal Mountain in Benzie County. Her environmental installation features mounded earth covered by vegetation in the shape of a seagull. Elk Rapids High School students will be involved in creating the piece.

- Bob Purvis, a minimalist sculptor and furniture maker who lives in Suttons Bay Township. His works in steel can be seen throughout the region, including the Dennos Museum Center.

- Mary Ellen Murphy of Central Lake and Jill Robinson of Bellaire, who will combine natural and industrial elements to create a triptych of wood, metal, stained glass, found objects and ceramics. Murphy works with architectural stained glass. Robinson is a clay artist.

- Sculptor John Goss of Williamsburg, who specializes in creating realistic wildlife sculptures from recycled metals.

- Sam Soet of Farwell, who had five sculptures represented at ArtPrize 2012 in GrandRapids and currently has exhibited work at Art Trail in Tecumseh.

- Art Brown, welding artist and blacksmith at Torch Tip Iron Works in Central Lake, who has been commissioned by Art Rapids! to make a specially designed piece to mark the entrance to the “Walk of Art.” The commission is underwritten by a grant from the Michigan County for Arts and Cultural Affairs through the NorthSky Nonprofit Network.

A seventh piece, a metal sculpture by Florida artist Jeff Whyman, has been donated to Art Rapids! by Harry and Ann Santen, who have homes in Cincinnati and Alanson, DeCamp said.

The little-known and used Elk Rapids Day Park along South Bayshore Drive south of the village is scheduled to open just before Memorial Day weekend, May 25 to 27.

“It’s one of northern Michigan’s hidden gems,” DeCamp said. “It’s a beautiful fit for a sculpture park. In our mind this project is as much about the park as it is about the sculptures.”

Created about four decades ago, the park already has hiking trails, picnic tables, public restrooms and a paved walk for handicap access from a 90-car paved parking lot.

Art Rapids!, the village’s arts and culture organization, was founded in 2005 as a nonprofit to promote art, artists and art education. It has no paid staff or building. Since then, it has given $45,000 to the community in the form of scholarships, grants and concerts. Its annual art show and free summer concerts draw thousands of visitors to the village, DeCamp said.

The Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs awarded the local organization a $4,000 grant last fall to defray 2012-2013 “Walk of Art” start-up part of its $3 million “Pure Michigan” campaign.

Each of the selected artists will receive an honorarium of $500 after the installation of their work to help pay the costs of moving and positioning it, DeCamp said. Art Rapids! members will be on hand to monitor installation as well as assist artists, if needed. The honorariums come from private donations.

All artists who applied to install art at the sculpture park signed contracts with Art Rapids! and provided details of their work including how they would conduct installations in a safe and responsible manner, she said.

The contract also stipulates that their work will be for sale and will remain in the park for a minimum of a year and a maximum of three. After the third year, it must be removed to make room for new art.

The day park property, once private land, was taken over by Elk Rapids for nonpayment of taxes decades ago. Elk Rapids deeded it to the county in 1972. Under county management, the park has been strictly seasonal — open only to foot traffic all winter and after sunset in the summer.