At 7 a.m. last Thursday, a flatbed truck backed into the
parking lot of the Lansing City Market and aimed a 24-foot-long wooden
crate toward the riverbank.

Two workers unbolted one end of the crate. The morning sun
caught a gleaming curve. Something very large, sleek and silver was
sleeping inside — something from California.

Was the majestic humpback whale being returned to the Grand River at last?

The size and shape were right, but the curves were too
smooth. There was only one explanation. Postmodern, interactive
sculpture has come to Lansing.

“Inspiration,” Lansing’s new one-ton
bauble, had finally made its way to Michigan from the California
workshop of artist James T. Russell.

Although the dedication ceremony was held
Sunday afternoon (it had to be moved into the Lansing Center because of
the chilly weather), funds are still being collected to cover the cost
of the sculpture’s pedestal; see the infobox for details on how to

It took a bit of coaxing, but by 1 p.m.
Thursday, the curvy ribbon of stainless steel — a gift from the Lansing
150 Foundation and a roster of private donors — was bolted to its
permanent home between the City Market and the Shiawassee Street bridge.
By late afternoon, the welding and polishing was done, and the piece
already looked at home.

Russell and his crew have installed such swirls all over
the country, but the wide hips of “Inspiration” posed a special problem.

“The only way to get this sculpture here — it was so wide — was to do it in two pieces,” Russell said.

That meant that the one-ton, 20-foot-high sculpture had to be welded together at its pointy apex in the City Market parking lot.

The mid-day sun, at its hottest so far this year, added perspiration to the inspiration. 

While directing the work, Russell looked more like a
puttering uncle than a temperamental artist. He wandered restlessly,
fiddling with tools and equipment.

A slow ballet of lifting, balancing and wrangling began.
Two half-ton hunks of metal had to be lined up and welded together
precisely and seamlessly.

When the halves were within inches of each other, Russell
shrugged off his methodical shuffle and came alive. He addressed the
sculpture like a boxer, hugging the two halves while his assistants made
precisely aimed tungsten welds.

Russell has described “Inspiration” as the culmination of a
lifelong artistic passion — the fusion of the male and female

By melding a vertical tower with an inviting aperture,
Russell has bestowed the city with conceptual, never-ending sex on the

Usually, Russell’s work goes up in front of a casino, a
town square, or a corporate headquarters, without a natural feature in

“The best thing about this site is the river,” he said. “It’s beautiful.”

“It’s great that the Rotary Foundation afforded me the
opportunity,” he said. “It’s a privilege to be here and create a work of
art that’s going to last another 150 years.”

After lunch, a bigger crane lifted the newly fused
sculpture, swung it slowly over the bluff and lowered in into place.
Joggers, bikers and strollers circled around the site with a puzzled
glance. Some stopped to watch.

Russell and his crew fiddled with the triangular footings
where 20 bolts, one inch in diameter, anchor the sculpture a foot deep.

The first try was not a success. The feet didn’t match the
bolt holes in the two footings, so the whole sculpture had to be swung
around 180 degrees.

The crane operator swiveled the sculpture in mid-air,
showing off one of its most striking features: It seems to change shape
when viewed from different angles.

By 5 p.m., the welding and polishing were winding down.
When a brief shower followed the 80-degree heat, “Inspiration” got an
instant welcome to fickle Michigan weather.

Donations for the pedestal of James T. Russell’s ‘Inspiration’ should be made out to The Lansing 150 Foundation.
Send checks to Tim Adams at Maner Costerisan, 2425 E. Grand River Ave., Suite 1,
 Lansing, MI 48912
For more information, call Tim Adams at (517) 323-7500,
or e-mail