Sculpture is about setting sails together

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published August 9, 2017

 From left, artist Erik Nordin, Grosse Pointe Park City Councilwoman Barb Detwiler and Park Mayor Robert Denner stand in front of “The Sails of Two Cities,” a new sculpture on the Kercheval Avenue border between the Park and Detroit. The artwork is meant to reflect unity and commonality between the two cities.

From left, artist Erik Nordin, Grosse Pointe Park City Councilwoman Barb Detwiler and Park Mayor Robert Denner stand in front of “The Sails of Two Cities,” a new sculpture on the Kercheval Avenue border between the Park and Detroit. The artwork is meant to reflect unity and commonality between the two cities.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

GROSSE POINTE PARK — The border of Grosse Pointe Park and Detroit on Kercheval Avenue near Alter Road — once controversially blocked off on the Park side by farmers market sheds — is now the location of a sculpture that symbolizes unity and a shared history between the two cities.

“The Sails of Two Cities,” by artist brothers Erik and Israel Nordin, is now a prominent feature in the Park’s burgeoning Kercheval business district, known as the Park. City Councilwoman Barb Detwiler and her husband, Frederic Detwiler, paid for the artwork.

“We’re so pleased with everything that’s happening here in the Park and what’s happening in Detroit,” Barb Detwiler said. “And we just wanted (the art) to be a symbol of togetherness.”

Frederic Detwiler said he and his wife both enjoy sailing, and “it’s part of the whole heritage” of the area.

“We thought it would be a nice addition — sort of emblematic of the area,” he continued.

Made of stainless steel, carbon steel and glass, the roughly 20-foot-tall sculpture was installed in the center traffic island on Wayburn Street and Kercheval July 11, but a formal celebration with officials didn’t take place until Aug. 3.

“We deconstructed the architecture of a boat,” Erik Nordin explained. “The glass represents the water and is inspired by a topographical view of the cities.”

He said the sculpture also speaks to the power of the wind.

Erik Nordin said he and his brother “were very honored” they were chosen to create the sculpture.

“All of our pieces tell a story,” Erik Nordin said. “It’s great when we can bring people together. Our art pieces have a way of starting a conversation.”

The artists have created a number of other sculptures for metro Detroit communities, including Harrison Township, but this one was especially close to their hearts because the Nordin brothers live in Detroit and their sister lives in the Park, and they have many friends in the Pointes, Erik Nordin said.

“They’ve done a lot of terrific pieces around Detroit,” Mayor Robert Denner said.

Erik Nordin said the sculpture is aimed at showing unity between Detroit and the Park. As he pointed out, the water — a prominent feature reflected in the blue glass in the sails — “is such a beautiful part of this area,” and it flows through the Park and Detroit.

And he said the sculpture purposely has “no front or back,” so it can be appreciated as much from the Detroit side as from the Park side.

“It’s a sculpture for everybody,” Erik Nordin said. “It’s just as beautiful from both sides.”

Denner praised the artwork.

“I love the sculpture, and it’s a terrific addition to our downtown,” he said. “More than a beautiful sculpture, it tells a great story of the Grosse Pointes and Detroit working together to (improve) the east side.”

Among those efforts is a private, anonymous donor who stepped forward to pay for streetscape improvements along the Detroit side of Mack Avenue, across from the Park, to mirror what the Park has done in recent years by adding new landscaping, trees and other amenities to the Mack business district, Denner said.

“We hope to do many more things in the future to work together,” Denner said.

The deceased trees currently planted around the sculpture will be removed and replaced with different landscaping, to make sure that visitors can see the artwork clearly, Denner said. Up-lighting and an informational plaque that will explain the meaning of the sculpture will be added as well, he said.