New sculptures enhance Alpena Bi-Path

It should be hard to miss.

A 15-foot high, 800-pound metal sculpture of blue herons will be trucked to Alpena from Moran Iron Works in Onaway and then hoisted by crane onto a permanent base along the Alpena Bi-Path at the Duck Park.

Delivery of the much anticipated new sculpture, called Departure of the Great Blue Herons, is expected Wednesday. A formal dedication ceremony is planned Friday for both this new sculpture and one on the campus of Alpena Community College.

The installation of two new art pieces enhances the already strong commitment to the arts within the community. The pieces also represent a continuation of a project initiated more than 40 years ago.

Many who regularly enjoy the recreational opportunities afforded by the scenic Alpena Bi-Path may not realize an original intent of that project was to create a sculptured pathway along the Thunder Bay River. They also may not realize it was the Thunder Bay Arts Council that initiated the Bi-Path project as a means of commemorating the 200th birthday of the nation back in 1976.

Much has transpired in the years since that 1976 Bicentennial Celebration when TBAC first developed a plan for the route, hired a design architect, secured grant funding/donations and brought the City of Alpena on board to help make the Alpena Bi-Path become a reality.

The scope of the bikeway/walkway has increased considerably in length over the years and now affords many picturesque views of both Thunder Bay River and Lake Huron. It has become a well-utilized scenic and recreational jewel within the city.

While the Alpena Bi-Path came to fruition and exceeded expectations, only one sculpture ever became a part of the trail system. That was a sculpture fountain created by Michigan artist Glen Michaels and installed in 1979 at the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan.

It may have taken some time, but TBAC is once again at the forefront of making art installations a part of the Bi-Path. Tim Kuehnlein of the TBAC, an instructor at Alpena Community College, encouraged ACC students Scott Stevens, Stephanie Richards and Brittany Worth earlier this year in their design of a piece called Global Collaboration Awareness.

The sphere sculpture, designed through the college’s engineering and design class, represents the world. A stabilizing rod through the middle of the globe features seven rings around it, representing the seven seas and seven continents. Scott Stevens of Stevens Custom Fabrication was tasked with welding the sculpture together.

More than six feet tall, the Global Collaboration Awareness sculpture was placed in front of ACC campus and is visible from Johnson Street.

TBAC also commissioned artist Ann Gildner of Cheboygan to design the Blue Heron sculpture. She in turn collaborated with Thomas Moran and Mary Zinke at Iron One Studio in Onaway to create the newest sculpture made from burnished stainless and raw steel.

The newest sculpture depicts the beauty of nature from the simplicity of line to the complexity of form. The grace of the blue herons show the majesty of flight, while their wind stream flows through a habitat of bending leaves and grasses.

The public is invited to the unveiling and dedication of the sculptures on Friday. Festivities start at 5:30 p.m. on the Besser Technical Center lawn at ACC. Following a brief ceremony there, participants will walk along the Bi-Path via the Besser Museum, taking them past the original sculpture fountain.

The group will then end up at Duck Park for a second ceremony to unveil and dedicate the Blue Herons sculpture. Artists and designers for both projects will be on hand for the event.

“The real objective is to let people engage the Bi-Path as a recreational opportunity, but also engage in the arts, admiring the new pieces of a growing collection while also conversing about the value of art in the community and within nature,” Kuehnlein said of the over-arching intent of including art sculptures along the Bi-Path.

Limited public transportation will be provided to those who cannot walk from ACC to Duck Park and back. TBAC has arranged for services with Thunder Bay Transportation. Parking at ACC is plentiful and recommended as parking at Duck Park will be more limited and likely congested. City police have been notified to help accommodate walking across Chisholm from Johnson.

The event will take place rain or shine.