Oct. 5 2016 12:53 AM

'Art in the Wild' hooks up high culture to a big drain

A mural-sized blowup of a painting by artist Linda Beeman will be the first in an outdoor gallery of water-themed art in the Montgomery Drain service area.
Courtesy Image
The perfect image of harmony between humankind and nature, in the imagination of Ingham County Drain Commissioner Pat Lindemann, is a turtle sunning itself on the back of a bronze sculpture.

A year ago, Lindemann’s office, together with the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council, or Mid-MEAC, formed a nonprofit committee called “Art in the Wild.”

The purpose, in Lindemann said, is to “make an art gallery out of the whole watershed.”

The plan includes sculptures and muralsized images by local artists on vacant walls and alleys in Frandor and other shopping centers in the service area of the proposed Montgomery Drain “to enhance environmental restoration through the integration of art and human imagination.”

“The goal is to fund, select, place and maintain art in areas of environmental renewal,” Lindemann said, starting with the concrete crust of retail stores and parking lots centering on the Frandor Shopping Center and serviced by the proposed Montgomery Drain. (See main story.)

Money for the project is coming from private donors. Two fundraisers have been held already, with a third slated for Dec. 1 at the Broad Art Museum.

Lindemann said the group has raised about $10,000 already.

The first mural to go up will be a painting by Linda Beeman of a woman in a red hat, paddling a canoe. The cheery image will be blown to mural size and printed on durable cellophane glued to an outdoor wall. The project envisions dozens of such murals by local artists, changed every year or two. The easily removable murals cost about $1,000 apiece and leave no mark on the bricks. The Beeman mural was donated by a local business in Frandor.

Martin Eichinnger's 1978 sculpture "Windlord" will be moved from Adado Riverfront Park to become part of a watery fantasia in the middle of Michigan Avenue.
Courtesy Image

Bigger pieces planned for the drain area include a 24-foot, functioning topiary clock, similar to the ones at Niagara Falls and Belle Isle, to be set at the north end of Ranney Park. The clock will be paid for and maintained by Medawar Jewelers. A topiary garden re-creating the famous Seurat painting, “Sunday on La Grande Jatte” at life size, is in the works.

The group also plans to put up kiosks powered by solar panels with waterproof speakers that will play recordings of poets, including student poets, reading poems.

The biggest project and centerpiece of “Art in the Wild” so far is a combined fountain and sculpture planned for the median of Michigan Avenue, between the Frandor and proposed Red Cedar Renaissance development parts of the drain project.

The fountain, fed by a pair of small above-ground streams to oxygenate water, will double as a part of the drain project and a part of the art. The sculpture will be familiar to Lansing residents: “Windlord,” the first public sculpture by artist Martin Eichinger, commissioned in 1976 by the city of Lansing and finished in 1978.

Lansing resident James McClurken, a supporter of “Art in the Wild,” proposed the idea of moving the sculpture. McClurken said the sculpture is worth about $1.5 million and would make a fine “gateway to Lansing” and showpiece for the multi-faceted drain project. McClurken said Eichinger is “excited” about the move.

“Windlord” was intended to go into the traffic circle east of the state Capitol, McClurken said, but then-Lansing Mayor Gerald Graves didn’t like it. “It has been in its temporarily location, Adado Riverfront Park, for 40 years,” McClurken said.

Lindemann called “Art in the Wild” part of a multi-faceted placemaking project, including the drain and the proposed Red Cedar Renaissance project, but he wants a lot of the art to focus on educating people about water.

He checked with his herpetologist. He said the turtles won’t care.

“They’d just as soon sit on a bronze sculpture as a dead log,” Lindemann said.