Next Alpena Bi-Path sculptures in development

The commitment to create art sculptures along the scenic Alpena Bi-Path continues into 2018.

After the successful dedication of two new pieces last October – the Departure of the Great Blue Herons sculpture and the Global Collaboration Awareness sculpture – plans have been announced for additional installations. This time, the commissioned art thematically will represent foundational and current industries vital to the development and sustainability of Alpena.

“The next sculpture actually is going to be six components and play on the theme of the history of industry in Alpena and Northeast Michigan,” said Tim Kuehnlein of the Thunder Bay Arts Council. The TBAC served as one of the main driving forces behind the original development of the Bi-Path and now the effort to bring more art into public spaces.

Kuehnlein said the committee working on the new project is using the world-renowned Stonehenge as an inspiration to both convey the ingenuity of Early Man and as a structural canvas for art. Plans call for installing six large scale monolithic limestone columns at two different sites along the Bi-Path and then commissioning artists to create art that reflects the History of Industry theme. Their artwork will then become a part of the columns.

“In order for the new sculptures to have large scale volume, we decided to play off Alpena’s salt of the earth – limestone – and use large monolithic pillars of limestone as the canvas for smaller scale artwork,” Kuehnlein said. “The stones will be between 8 to 10 feet high. They will be staggered in heights and 4 to 5 feet wide and about 2 feet deep so it’s going to be pretty substantial artwork.”

Five of the six columns will be placed along the Bi-Path near Alpena Community College’s Van Lare Hall. According to Kuehnlein, that site is significant to early industry because it originally housed the first Besser machine. Not only that, the location also was a significant Native American copper processing site.

The sixth column will be located at Washington Avenue Park along the Thunder Bay River.

“The idea of separation is to have the sculptures inter-connected thematically but to have people go to the other side of the Bi-Path to physically engage in the space,” Kuehnlein said.

The sculpture committee spearheading the project already has contacted a number of artists about submitting proposals for a commission. Other interested artists may contact TBAC at 356-6678 for information and a project prospectus.

Kuehnlein said everyone is grateful that the limestone columns are being donated by Carmeuse Lime & Stone and Lafarge Presque Isle. Oak City, the contractor for the upcoming renovation of Van Lare Hall, also has agreed to transport and set the columns in place.

“We know the locations for the sculptures, we have the funding. It’s now a matter of waiting for spring to get the stones in place,” Kuehnlein said. “In the meantime, we’re recruiting artists to give us concepts. We want everything to fit together aesthetically.”

Besides TBAC, others supporting the project are ACC, Besser Foundation for Northeast Michigan, and Alpena County Parks and Recreation Commission. Grant funding also is being sought from the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan.

Overall cost of the project is estimated at $60,000. Unlike the sculptures installed last year, no public fundraising campaign is expected.

“After the submission of the proposals, we will use the month of March to solidify commissions with the artists. They will then have basically through the end of fall to get them done,” Kuehnlein said. Plans call for having the sculptures installed and dedicated sometime in the fall.

Members of the sculpture committee include Kuehnlein, Midge Connon, Jean Stewart, Marsette Dubie, Roger Baumgardner, Jodene Compton and Michelle Miller. ACC’s campus beautification committee, spearheaded by Nick Brege, also is playing a key role in the overall project.