Sisters Sarah Himes, of Madison Heights, and Susan Himes, of Troy, walk with 11-month-old Sabrina Leheka through the new Red Pole Park in Southfield. The city celebrated the opening of the park Aug. 22 with a ceremony.

Photo by Deb Jacques

‘Art means nothing unless it is seen’

City celebrates opening of crowdfunded Red Pole Park

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published August 29, 2018

SOUTHFIELD — If you’ve driven down the Lodge Freeway lately, you’ve probably seen a sea of red poles protruding to the sky. 

It’s Red Pole Park, and it’s the city’s latest public art installation. 

The city of Southfield celebrated the opening of the park during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 22. 

“We are here on a mission,” Mayor Ken Siver said. “We have been working very hard to create a sense of place in Southfield, and part of that sense of place is walkability and nonmotorized pathways. … The other part of our placemaking is public art.”

The project began in June 2017, when officials from the city and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. announced a crowdfunding campaign aimed at creating a new, interactive public art destination. 

If the campaign reached its crowdfunding goal of $50,000 by Aug. 4, 2017, the project was to earn a matching grant from the MEDC’s Public Spaces, Community Places program. 

The city was successful in raising the funds, and in August 2017, the Southfield City Council approved accepting the grant from the MEDC. 

Public Spaces, Community Places is a collaborative effort of the MEDC, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, the Michigan Municipal League and Patronicity — a Michigan-based crowdfunding platform — according to city officials. In the program, residents can use crowdfunding to be part of the development of projects in their communities. 

Dominic Romano, community assistance team specialist at the MEDC, discussed the community development side of the organization. 

“In order to do that, we try to help Michigan communities grow, to be more vibrant, resilient and diverse in a way that helps them to grow economically, to support that talent and business for a more vibrant community all around.”

Red Pole Park is located along the new walking and biking pathway along Northwestern Highway in the Southfield City Centre district that opened last summer. 

City Planner Terry Croad said previously that the campaign is a continuation of the city’s efforts at making Southfield more pedestrian friendly. 

The new walkway, which officials have dubbed a “greenway,” will include a series of outdoor “rooms,” or installations, that pedestrians will experience when using the path. Red Pole Park is the first “room” on the path. 

Croad said previously that the park will be much like an art exhibit, made up of 25- to 30-foot poles painted red. Croad said the poles will look different from different angles. 

Siver also said that the city plans on installing several pieces of the Northland Art Collection along the pathway, in addition to the poles. 

City Council President Dan Brightwell spoke on the importance of art in communities. 

“I’ve been a student of art since I was a child, and during my freshman year at Morehouse (College) I took a course in art,” Brightwell said. “I went and found my old art book and a quote from it. This comes out of the beginning, when you first get into the class. It says, ‘Art means nothing unless it is seen.’”

The city of Southfield purchased Northland Mall in 2015 from the court-appointed receiver and is currently working on a plan to redevelop the site. 

The receiver had looked at selling the 11-piece Northland Art Collection, which was estimated at a value of $500,000. 

Siver, who spearheaded the creation of the Public Arts Commission last year, said previously that the city secured a low-interest loan of $500,000 for the art pieces. 

After the city secured the 11-piece collection, the Public Arts Commission launched the Free the Bear development campaign in 2016 to raise funds to pay back the loan, get the art out of storage and have it placed around the city. The fundraiser included both a public crowdfunding component and corporate underwriting.