Cool City to scatter lighthouses around SCS

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 13, 2013

 Unfinished lighthouses, like this model, will be sponsored by city businesses and groups as part of the Cool City Committee’s Community Art Project.

Unfinished lighthouses, like this model, will be sponsored by city businesses and groups as part of the Cool City Committee’s Community Art Project.

They won’t light up the coast but they will bring brightness and color to the community this summer when the Cool City Committee unveils its 2013 Community Art Project.

“We wanted to do a project that would bring the community together, show some pride and creativity in St. Clair Shores,” said Bob Fetter, a member of the Cool City Committee of St. Clair Shores.

That’s why the 8-member group commissioned 52-inch-tall cement lighthouses from a local artist. They will be delivered, unfinished, to participating sponsors and local businesses who will then paint and finish the sculptures to decorate St. Clair Shores for the summer.

Members had seen art installations like this around the state and country, most recently with fish sculptures in Grosse Pointe, and they wanted anything brought to St. Clair Shores to have a nautical feel.

“We wanted to bring one to St. Clair Shores that would really show off the unique nature of St. Clair Shores,” Fetter said. The lighthouse “shows the nautical nature of St. Clair Shores, right, that we’re right on a big lake.”

The committee is having 24 lighthouses cast, with help from the Operative Plasterers Cement Masons International Association Local 514, who agreed to replicate the lighthouses as an apprenticeship project and charge the group only the cost of materials. Three lighthouses will be installed on city property and one each will be given to each of the city’s three school districts to decorate as they please. That leaves 18 that the committee wants to find sponsors and homes for.

At the end of the installation, sometime in September, Fetter said they would hold a charity event where some of the lighthouses would be auctioned, with proceeds to go to the bidder’s choice.

“The businesses will be able to decide to keep the lighthouse as a keepsake or to donate back to the charity auction,” Fetter said.

All six of the city and school lighthouses will be placed for auction.

Because of the donated labor to replicate the design of St. Clair Shores artist Dennis Garascia, businesses will only have to pay $500 to sponsor a lighthouse, as opposed to prices of $2,500-$10,000 charged by other projects throughout the state.

“That’s what really made the project feasible,” Fetter said.

He said they chose Garascia for the design after both the St. Clair Shores Cultural Committee and the Lac Ste. Claire Fine Art Fair recommended him for the work.

“They all recommended him and he does a wonderful job,” Fetter said.

The local groups also helped the Cool City Committee compile a list of local artists willing to decorate the lighthouses, should businesses not have an artist of their own in mind. Fetter also said the Department of Public Works has been instrumental in helping get the project off the ground, pledging to help move the sculptures when they’re done — they’ll each weigh about 200 pounds.

Garascia said creating the lighthouse design was “right up my alley.”

“I do cement sculpture, I work in clay and wood and then I usually make rubber molds out of my work and I cast it in cement,” he said.

The 52-inch creation came from his imagination, since there isn’t a lighthouse to replicate in St. Clair Shores, he said. The city’s logo was incorporated into the design of the base, which also includes a small house.

“The artists are really going to be able to do some nice things with them,” he said. “There’s fish in there and a lighthouse with a lake surrounding it.”

Fetter said he expects the lighthouses to go fast and hopes to have an unveiling of the project in June.

“When you see it in person, it’s quite impressive,” he said.

To sponsor a structure, contact Bob Fetter at robert_fetter@hot or (586) 764-0931.