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Foundation halts roundabout sculpture plans

Search begins for art that ‘shows energy’ of Lansing


This story has been updated.

Public artwork at downtown Lansing's roundabout will have to wait.

Capital Region Community Foundation announced today that its selection committee “was unable to make a recommendation” among four competing sculpture designs, initially planned to adorn the roundabout at Michigan Avenue and Washington Square. And some more cash will be needed to make some better choices.

At least another $100,000 or $200,000 in private donations are needed for another round of proposals while the initial $100,000 gift for the sculpture is reserved through next year, officials said. Lansing Mayor Andy Schor’s new Art and Culture Commission will also partner for the renewed effort to bring in some fresher designs.

“We need something permanent in that space that shows the energy and excitement of Lansing,” Schor added.

Nearly 1,800 people responded to a survey of the four finalists in October and the selection committee used it as an opportunity to “learn more about the community, the people who care for it and public art.” After widespread criticism of the four finalists, officials decided to put an abrupt pause on the art plans altogether.

The local arts community for weeks has been underwhelmed by the four designs for a sculpture in the roundabout east of the state Capitol. The $100,000 budget was also at the low-end of similar sculptures around the country. Foundation Vice President Laurie Strauss Baumer hopes a higher price will expand the selection.

“It’s too bad that things get negative when we’re trying to do something so positive, but we respect the criticism,” Strauss Baumer added. “It’s a healthy discussion on what’s best for Lansing and what best reflects Lansing’s identity. This really prompted a really good, positive conversation about art and about Lansing.”

Strauss Baumer emphasized that no additional foundation dollars, at least beyond the initial $100,000, will be used should the project continue. Schor also previously ruled out putting up any city contributions toward the project. Any future sculptures will instead need an extra cash infusion entirely from private donors, officials said.

One finalist was a giant, metal-framed heart called “#LoveLansing.” Another was a welcoming pair of hands made on a wire frame. A third design, “flame,” had two metal balls of fire, hugged together by rings. The final submission was a magnified version of a star, providing a literal marker for Lansing as Michigan’s state capital.

“The value of art is in the eye of the beholder,” Strauss Baumer added. “Honestly, there were some art critics and self-proclaimed art experts that didn’t like that we had even asked the public for input. We felt the community should have a say, so we went forward with our survey even though some didn’t think it was appropriate.”

Baumer this week gushed with appreciation for those who responded to the survey because it served as a valuable feedback tool as the foundation works to “evaluate how to create spaces that enhance our region, celebrate our culture and respect the needs of the community” — and also sparked a public conversation about artistic value.

“It’s going to take some additional fundraising by some other entities that want to get involved before a second (request for proposals) can be released,” Strauss Baumer added. “When that happens, if it happens, it will be a joint partnership between the mayor’s art and culture commission, the Arts Council of Greater Lansing.”

Visit lansingcitypulse.com for previous and additional coverage as the foundation’s selection process continues.


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