MUSKEGON – Citizens of Muskegon continue to show philanthropic support for public art in their community, as a quarter of the 10 expected significant public art projects have been funded.
The MuskegonCity Public Art Initiative recently announced the latest public art achievement – full funding for the Muskegon Rails project. It involves the painting and hanging of murals on all four sides of two long-rusted railroad bridges along Seaway Drive in the towns of Muskegon, Muskegon Heights and Norton Shores.
The community has once again come together to support a public art project through the Michigan Economic Development Corp’s Public Spaces Community Places program. The public art initiative and the three participating cities raised $52,750 through Patronicity, unlocking a $50,000 grant from the state. State and donor contributions will be added to the Community Foundation for Muskegon County’s MuskegonCity Public Art Fund. This project and three others also receive support from the Howmet Aerospace Foundation.
Final support for the Muskegon Rails project of $207,000 comes from the three cities through direct and indirect contributions. With one of the bridges primed and prepared and the other to be prepared soon, the three artists from western Michigan and one from southeast Michigan hope to paint their murals in May.
The cities have submitted permit applications to the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Genesee and Wyoming Railroad for work to be completed later this spring, according to Judy Hayner, director of the arts initiative.
“The collaboration between the three cities has been impressive and shows the true strength of our community,” said Hayner, retired executive director of the Muskegon Museum of Art. “It was a compelling effort that you can’t deny.”
The MuskegonCity Public Art Initiative was created as a special fund in the community foundation by Patrick O’Leary, who served as chief financial officer of SPX Corp. for five years when the company was headquartered in Muskegon. O’Leary, retired and now chairman of the SPX board, loves Muskegon and continues to support the community through the Community Foundation for Muskegon County, Hayner said.
O’Leary’s public art contribution of $250,000 is being used for seed grants of $25,000 for 10 “permanent, monumental-scale” works of public art. Hayner and the community foundation’s Downtown Arts Committee – first established in 2002 – are responsible for the development of 10 works, including researching locations, identifying history and local stories that may be presented through art, the search for good artists capable of creating monumental works. then raise funds from the community to commission the work.
Here are the MuskegonCity Public Art Initiative projects to date:
1. Moxie, a realistic juggernaut emerging from a manhole in front of the center of the Lakeshore Museum celebrating the prehistoric Muskegon installed in August 2019.
2. A City Built on Timber pays homage to Muskegon’s timber era in an installation at the entrance to the dedicated Muskegon County Landing in June 2020.
3. Celebrating Muskegon is a 22-foot steel and glass sculpture directed toward the new Beach Street and Lakeshore Drive roundabout at the entrance to Muskegon’s Pere Marquette Park on Lake Michigan. Under construction in North Carolina, it should be installed in April and inaugurated this summer.
4. The Muskegon Rails Project: The four railroad bridge murals on Seaway Drive will be painted directly on both bridges, one between Laketon and Hackley Avenues and the other between Sherman and Broadway Avenues.
5. One Drop, a 27-foot water-inspired sculpture on the north side of the new VanDyk Mortgage Convention Center sponsored in part by and celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Women’s Division of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, will be installed in the fall of 2021.
6. What Defines Muskegon, a mural by award-winning Detroit muralist Dr. Hubert Massey, is in the design phase and will be placed outside Mercy Health Arena along West Western Avenue. Installation is scheduled for fall 2021. For this mural, Massey drew inspiration from a series of four Zoom Community Forums that took place in December and January.
The MuskegonCity Public Art Initiative has already raised over $900,000 in public art installations with four more projects to come.
Hayner says the remaining four additional projects could include a large-scale sculpture by a Muskegon artist for a 2022 installation; a sculpture installation at the Robert C. Lighton Memorial Park in front of the Muskegon County Courthouse; possibly a sculpture inspired by Buster Keaton in the Bluffton neighborhood of Muskegon; and she is starting conversations with Muskegon Heights leaders for a specific installation for that city.
“Our public art collection is just further evidence of Muskegon’s uniqueness,” Hayner said. “Muskegon is an interesting town because it’s big enough to have a lot of great assets, but it’s also small enough that you can shake things up. Muskegon shakes things up!