Mural to rise again

ALPENA — The collapse of the fish mural in Alpena may have caused some sorrow and a few tears after people learned about it Tuesday, but Art in the Loft Executive Director Justin Christensen-Cooper said people are eager to roll up their sleeves and open their wallets and get to work to replace it.

The mural and part of the building it was attached to were destroyed by high wind gusts and the remnants were scattered around the park. Loose brick was removed and where part of the mural hung is just boards. Yellow caution tape and barricades surround the park, but work is already under way to get it reopened as soon as possible.

Christensen-Cooper said Art in the Loft has received many calls, emails and posts on Facebook from people who expressed their sorrow about the mural. He said many also pledged their support to make sure it is replaced.

“We are beginning to see that we as a community are rallying to make sure this is back in place,” Christensen-Cooper said. “This gives us the fuel to help make it happen again.”

Christensen-Cooper said the owners of the building adjacent to the park, Chris and Missy LeFave, already have committed to allowing another mural on the building once it is repaired. The artist of the original art, Tony Hendrick, also has been contacted and asked if he would be interested in helping to replace the fish mural.

Christensen-Cooper said it is early in the planning stages and he is unsure if a replica of the fish mural will be done or whether it will be something a bit different. He said it will, however, reflect the culture of Alpena.

“He is more than amped up to work with us again,” he said. “I don’t think we can ever exactly duplicate what was up there. The direction at this time may be unknown, but no matter what it is the spirit of it will be the same.”

The community played a large roll in creating the mural. Art in the Loft hosted community painting sessions where people helped to design and paint the large 3-D fish. Christensen-Cooper said the public will be included in the process again.

“It is the only way we could do it again. We need to incorporate the touch of the community because that helps make everyone take ownership and pride in it,” he said.

Christensen-Cooper said photos and memories of people and families posing in front of the mural continue to be posted and shared on social media. There are many on the Art in the Loft Facebook page, including some from people as far away as California and Oregon. There also are several photos of newly married couples.

Christensen-Cooper said the mural was initially intended as a beautification project but morphed into something much larger, a place were people would meet, visit and make memories.

“It became something much more than what we anticipated. It became a destination,” he said. “Now we are getting an outcry of support from people all over and it just shows how important how special it was to people.”

In the days leading up to the wind storm, there already was an improvement plan being executed at the park on Chisholm Street. Doug Pratt, owner of Prattscape LLC, teamed up with Councilwoman Cindy Johnson to change some of the landscaping and lighting in the park.

A new sidewalk was installed, as were new lights; small wooden boats were made to be used as benches near the mural. Johnson said the finishing touches were supposed to be put on the project Monday, but couldn’t be done because of the rain. She said the collapse of the mural will only delay the other improvements, which will continue to move forward after the mural is restored or replaced.

“The landscaping will still happen, but not until the mural is back up,” she said.

The mural was erected last summer and Johnson, who helped in the planning, said people took pride in it because they helped to create it and it was unique. She said when she learned what happened it was like a punch in the gut, but had faith the community would come together to make another a reality.

“I have no doubt it will be fixed or replaced. No doubt at all,” Johnson said. “The biggest thing was nobody was in the park and got hurt.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews.