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Wednesday, June 13,2012

Take me to the river

Thanks to Lansing Art Gallery, it's the summer of riparian sculptures in downtown Lansing

by Tracy Key


The downtown riverside has sprouted sculptures as its banks have become an outdoor art trail.

Welcome to the summer-long Lansing Art by the River exhibition.

Several months ago, Catherine Babcock, executive director at the Lansing Art Gallery and coordinating curator for this event, sent out a statewide call to artists to submit their statues; a panel of three local artists and art teachers decided which 10 would make the cut.

Lansing Art by the River runs through Aug. 30. The submissions range from abstract to realism, and even include a green frog made of scrap metal by artist Phil DePeal, winner of last year’s Scrapfest competition in Old Town.

“We wanted artwork that would feel appropriate along the River Trail,” Babcock said.

Planning began a year ago when Babcockīs idea was approved for a grant from the City of Lansing Arts and Grants program.

She found inspiration for the idea of outdoor art exhibits while she was attending a gallery reception for a different indoor exhibit. 

“We saw these young people out on the streets, and I said to a co-worker, ‘How come they never come in to our exhibitions?” Babcock said.  “So I said, ‘Why don’t we bring it out to them instead?ī”

She decided that moving the art outside would reach people who might not usually visit a gallery or museum.

Babcock also saw an opportunity to include a layer of interactivity by embracing society’s love of electronic devices. Each piece of art is accompanied by a phone number that visitors may call to listen to the artists talk about themselves and their inspirations.

“You get a nice feeling for the artist’s personality when they speak of their inspiration, and I think it will help people understand the art more,” Babcock explained.

This concept was initially tested last summer during Art by the River’s predecessor, Lansing City Streets, and it was extremely popular. The idea has been expanded for Art by the River to include a QR code that can be scanned with a smartphone to bring up a webpage about the piece and its artist. 

“They all have cell phones,” Babcock said of Lansing’s youth. “What a great way to educate them about the artwork.”

In addition to reading more about the artists and artwork, viewers can also vote for favorite sculptures online, and a People’s Choice award will be presented at the end of the summer to the artist with the most votes, including a $1,000 prize for first place.

The sculptures are located along the River Trail between Michigan Avenue and Shiawassee Street, near the Lansing Center and the Lansing City Market. Ramps can be found behind the market for wheelchair and stroller accessibility. 

Lansing Art by the River

Through Aug. 30

Located between Michigan Avenue and Shiawasee Street.

The event is free and open 24 hours a day.

For free docent-guided tours of Art by the River, call (517) 374-6400

www.lansingartbytheriver.com

or lansingartgallery.org

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