A cultural and green movement is gaining momentum in Walled Lake, and a contingency of citizens has acquired a large-scale sculpture created by an acclaimed local artist and placed it on Pontiac Trail south of Maple.
“This is a dynamic piece of art and as the sunflowers grow, it will provide a different landscape for the sculpture,” said Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Urban Design Committee Member Valerie Kemp, who is spearheading the project.
A field of sunflower seeds planted behind the statue — which was installed on Sunday, May 29 — will create a distinctive landscape and lend itself to a blossoming green initiative.
Michigan artist John Sauvé, whose sculptures have been exhibited in parks and on rooftops in Chicago, New York City, and Benton Harbor, created the modern 7-foot metal sculpture called “St. Sebastian” as part of his series, “Man in the City.”
The rendering is a silhouette of St. Sebastian, a Christian martyr condemned to death around 300 A.D.
Roman soldiers shot him with a flight of arrows and left him for dead, but he was found later — barely breathing. He was nursed back to health and continued to preach the Gospel only to be hunted down by Roman soldiers a second time, and killed. To this day, Catholics view St. Sebastian as the only saint martyred twice.
“St. Sebastian is always depicted with arrows piercing him,” Sauvé said. “It is used as a metaphor throughout history and shows up in pop culture.”
The piece is a replica of the 12-foot stainless steel sculpture recently installed in Milliken Park along the Detroit Riverfront.
Initially Kemp appealed to the DDA to help fund a sculpture exhibit in the city. Although her request was denied, she refused to abandon the concept.
“After that, I spent so much time trying to bring this to fruition,” Kemp said. “I have so much passion and stand for change in Walled Lake.”
Kemp opted to pursue the initiative privately. Tony Lucero, who owns Eagle Graphic and Design and is a fellow Urban Design Committee member, shares Kemp’s passion and committed to sponsoring a sculpture. The owner of the property occupied by Goddard-Talmay allowed the sculpture to be placed on its adjacent vacant property lot.
Lucero also donated a plaque to accompany the sculpture.
Kemp said her vision for Walled Lake includes more sculptures and culture promoting eco-friendly initiatives.
“We’d like to exhibit 10 sculptures throughout the city to make it a more walkable community and bring in new business,” Kemp said. “It brings more culture, and creates conversation. By acquiring the sculpture, it will kick start the effort.”
“My interest in the project is the green approach to public art,” Sauvé said. “It’s the only one of its kind that I know of.”
Sauvé said his intent is to teach children more about art in the wake of cuts in funds for art curricula — not to mention show a direct correlation between science and art through the environmental approach.
“Creativity crosses all boundaries,” Sauvé said.
Kemp said she expects the mass planting of the sunflower seeds to spur growth and ignite change.
“My vision was to plant the sunflowers to green up the city and make it more pleasant, to attract people,” she said.
To that end, on May 29, Orchard Grove Community Church sent its youth group and families to disseminate 6,500 organic sunflower seeds throughout Walled Lake after property owners gave their blessings.
Kemp also collaborated with the Department of Public Works to use some of the seaweed swept onto the lake’s shoreline as compost for the sunflower harvest.
In advocating for a greater art presence in Walled Lake, Kemp said the art culture will augment and enrich the community.
“Walled Lake has the potential to draw young professionals with our smaller homes, the historic lakefront, and great school system. By adding culture, it will grow the demographic and bring about change for the better,” she said.