New sculpture highlights ‘Freedom of Flight’

By: Kristyne E. Demske | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published September 22, 2021


HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Get ready to take flight with a new sculpture coming to the township later this year.

The sixth sculpture installed in Harrison Township is meant to honor the township’s relationship with Selfridge Air National Guard base and give viewers the feeling of the exhilaration and freedom of flying. Entitled “Freedom of Flight,” it has been designed and sculpted by Erik and Israel Nordin of the Detroit Design Center.

Susan Keehn, chair of the Harrison Township Beautification Commission, and her husband approached the commission several years ago with the idea of installing art throughout the township to highlight the community.

“So when you’re coming in from (Interstate) 94…you would know you’ve arrived somewhere — that Harrison Township had some identity,” she said.

“My husband and I did that as an impetus for the community to see what it would be like and understand that we wanted to become an art community,” Keehn explained.

Placing artwork throughout the community is just as much about economic development as it is about beautification and raising the pride of township residents. All of the pieces have been financed solely through donations.

“Our township doesn’t pay for a thing,” Keehn said. “We’ve had some amazing donors. Sometimes, it’s taken a year and a half to accumulate funding, and it depends on the sculpture what that funding is.”

This is the fifth piece the Nordin brothers have created for Harrison Township since 2016. The other pieces are “Rose & Thistle” on 16 Mile Road east of Shoreline Drive, “Migration” at 16 Mile Road and Crocker Boulevard, “Wind Over Water” at Waterfront Park on Jefferson Avenue, and “North Star” at the intersection of North River Road and Conger Bay Drive. There was also a sculpture donated in 2018 by artist and resident Curt Winnega, “Young & Hungry,” at Tucker Park on Ballard Street at Jefferson Avenue.

Keehn appreciates the partnership with the Nordin brothers, she said.

“It is up to us to get the funding, but their desire to have art around Macomb County and other counties in Michigan,” she said. “Their desire and drive to bring art to communities keeps you going.”

The latest piece, “Freedom of Flight,” is a nod to Selfridge Air National Guard Base, “who have been amazing all these years protecting us, partnering with us and their rich history.”

The “Freedom of Flight” sculpture will be installed on the southwest corner of 16 Mile Road and Jefferson Avenue, behind the two benches currently located along the bike path.

Selfridge ANG is an important part of the community, Erik Nordin said. The sculpture “pays a nice tip of the hat to the idea of the freedom of flying, whether it be directly tied to armed forces (or not).”

“We certainly want to make a special nod to all of the armed forces, all they do for us,” he continued. “The piece has these abstract wings on the side of it, and it almost can look like something has a trajectory, like it’s taking off or landing. That’s some of the inspiration.”

The brothers like to create pieces that are beautiful in their own way but also tell a story, he said.

“All we want to do is create something that is uniting and has things that will inspire,” he said.

Erik Nordin said he and his brother have been working with Harrison Township on a series of pieces to create more of an “art presence” in the township.

Nordin said they are enhancing the pieces as time goes on and funding becomes available, adding benches at one sculpture and solar lights at another to make the piece come to life at night.

“It takes time and money and fundraising,” he said. “We’re donating as much of our time and expertise as possible. We love that there is this grass roots effort in Harrison Township. The community is so supportive of public art.”

The Nordin brothers have also created pieces for Michigan State University, the city of Muskegon, the Windsor Bridge Authority and Belle Isle recently.

“The point of art is to inspire. There is art out there that will be more purposeful, (but) what we try to do is tell our clients’ story, celebrate the community, make it authentic to the community,” Nordin said.

Keehn said they are aiming for a fall installation, but there is no specific date set yet. The installation wouldn’t be possible without help from Lakepointe Excavating and Louis Mihelich Landscape Inc., which have installed the base and garden walls of the sculptures, respectively, she said.

“Those things, for us, are priceless, and we can’t do it without them,” she said.

Those wishing to donate to this or future art installations in the township can learn more at the Harrison Township Beautification Facebook page or pick up a form at the township offices 38151 L’Anse Creuse St.