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Give me an ‘A!’ ‘Alpena Letters Sculpture’ installed

News Photos by Justin A. Hinkley Above, Bedrock workers install the last “A” in Alpena on Thursday at Mich-e-ke-wis Park. The “Alpena Letters Sculpture” features 7-foot-tall steel letters fabricated by Bessser Co. of Alpena.

ALPENA — It’s a red-letter day in the city of Alpena. Find out why by driving down to Mich-e-ke-wis Park and checking out the new “Alpena Letters Sculpture,” installed Thursday.

Originally scheduled for installation in May, plans were put on hold because of the pandemic, but have finally come to fruition just in time for Thanksgiving.

The “Alpena Letters Sculpture,” by Besser Company, features giant steel letters in a bold shade of red staggered in an artistic way on the lawn facing the roadway.

“The sculpture serves as an inviting welcome to those who visit and build livelihoods on the open shores and spaces of Northeast Michigan,” the plaque to be installed with the sculpture reads. “Each letter represents individuals that together comprise community. The letters spell a cohesive place to call home — ALPENA.”

The “Alpena Letters Sculpture” is inspired by a photography exhibit of local artist Brandinn Keetch, and reflects an iconic historic Alpena postcard.

Here is a wider view of the sculpture, which can be seen from State Avenue (U.S.-23) in front of the park.

Besser Company and its skilled craftsmen provided structural engineering and fabrication of the large-scale letters which are made of 10-gauge steel, painted in brilliant red. They measure 7 feet tall, 3.3 feet wide, 1.5 feet deep, and weigh about 465 to 575 pounds each, for a total of 3,200 pounds.

Check out the video below of the installation of one of the letters in the new sculpture. Viewing on mobile? Turn your device horizontally for the best viewing experience. Story continues below the video.

This installation is part of Art Vision Alpena, a project of Thunder Bay Arts Council, Inc., which seeks to enrich the aesthetic quality of community while encouraging recreation with art in nature along the Alpena Bi-Path.

The following organizations generously contributed their resources, time, efforts, expertise and logistics to accomplish this $30,000 project: Besser Company, Besser Foundation, City of Alpena, Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan, Thunder Bay Arts Council, Inc., Art Vision Alpena Advisory Committee, August and Peggy Matuzak, Tim Kuehnlein and Todd Russell, Bedrock Contracting & Excavating, LLC, L&S Transit Mix Concrete Co., R S Scott Associates, Inc., Thunder Bay Electric, Inc., L&N Greenway, Fitzpatrick Hardware, Omega Electric and Sign Company, Inc.

Courtesy Photo Freshly fabricated steel letters await priming and painting at Besser Co. before they make their way to their new home at Mich-e-ke-wis Park. Each letter weighs 465 to 575 pounds.

“In what is quintessential Alpena, the letters stand boldly at the edge of Mich-e-ke-wis Park,” the plaque continues. “Fun and whimsically positioned, they welcome everyone to Alpena and all it has to offer with the interplay of the arts, culture, nature, recreation, and industry.”

Similar large-scale letter installations exist in cities around the world such as Porto (Portugal), Amsterdam (Netherlands) and Philadelphia.

Art Vision Alpena members Tim Kuehnlein and August Matuzak want to extend special appreciation to some of folks for their dedication to this project.

“This has been a work of labor and love for all involved, probably the largest endeavor for sculptures thus far,” Kuehnlein said. “We could not have done it without Brian Siegert of Besser Company nor Travis O’Connor, Bryan DeCare and the Bedrock crew. The support of the City, Besser Foundation, Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan and the other donors is immensely valued. But the labors of Besser and Bedrock are quintessential Alpena.”

The vintage postcard seen here was part of the inspiration for the “Alpena Letters Sculpture.”

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