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Moran enters Ford sculpture in GR ArtPrize competition

August 6, 2012
Jordan Travis - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

ONAWAY - A local businessman known for his huge metal sculptures will take his latest creation to an art competition in Southwest Michigan.

A Grand Rapids entertainment spot will host Tom Moran's giant bust of late President Gerald R. Ford for this year's ArtPrize, Moran said. The owner of Moran Iron Works in Onaway makes something unique for the city's Fourth of July parade each year. This year, he thought he'd make something for two purposes: the parade, and an art competition that draws thousands of artists and hundreds of thousands of people.

"My girlfriend, Marilyn Kapp, suggested it," he said. "I thought it was a good idea."

Moran's bust will be one of thousands of entries in the competition, Kapp said. Kapp serves as public relations for Moran Iron Works, and said ArtPrize is in its fourth year.

"There are entries from all over the world," she said. "There are over 1,700 entries in ArtPrize this year."

ArtPrize's website said the competition was begun as a way to bring artists and community together. It's estimated more than 200,000 people visited the numerous venues hosting a wide variety of artwork in 2009, its first year. More than 4,500 artists have participated over the years from all over the world.

This year, the grand prize winner of the juried competition will win $200,000, according to the ArtPrize website.

Soon, Ford's smiling face will be parked next to The B.O.B, Kapp said.. On Sept. 16, the 8,000-pound sculpture will arrive in Grand Rapids, and will be placed next to the multi-story establishment near the center of downtown.

The competition begins on Sept. 19, and ends Oct. 7, Kapp said. It'll be the culmination of a process that began in late 2011, when Moran started putting the likeness of the late president and Michigan native together.

Moran was looking to submit his creation, but in order to do so, he needed to find a venue, Kapp said. Owners of The B.O.B., a single building with multiple night-life venues tucked inside, approached Moran about hosting the bust.

"You have to find a place to display your art," she said. "There are a limited number of places that do that. So meanwhile he was building but the sort of dating game didn't start until April."

After ArtPrize, Moran is hoping someone will like the sculpture enough to purchase it, he said. His work can be found all over northern Michigan, and he'd like to spread his creations around.

When considering what to build, Moran said he chose Ford because he's the only president who lived in Michigan. Not only did Ford grow up in Grand Rapids, it's the home of his presidential library.

Moran got to shaping and welding the plate steel for the sculpture right after Christmas 2011, he said. Right away, he had two difficulties to deal with: shaping the steel, and Ford's lack of distinguishing facial features.

"In the beginning, it was just a nose and a forehead," he said.

As he added features, he got better at shaping the steel, Moran said. While he's "not embarrassed" with the end result, there are plenty of features he would change.

"The ears aren't even close to the right size, but I didn't want to remake those," he said. "The eyes were a big thing. I worked on those for a long time, but I wasn't really happy with them. So there's a local lady who does stained glass, and she cut some glass and installed them in the eyes."

Overall, Moran put roughly 700-900 hours into the sculpture, he said. Moran said he's unsure if he'll participate in another ArtPrize, although he couldn't rule it out.

"I did what I wanted to do - I wanted to make something that looked close to Gerald Ford and could be a part of the program in northern Michigan parades to support merchants in communities," he said.

Ultimately, Moran's not too concerned about the competition, he said.

"Just being involved with something like that and having my fun with it, that's good enough for me," he said.

For more information about ArtPrize, visit

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5688.



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