Art Explored pieces start appearing in Royal Oak

By: Robert Guttersohn | Royal Oak Review | Published September 16, 2013

 Richard Gage poses Sept. 9 with his public art display, “Petal Parts,” in front of the Royal Oak Public Library.

Richard Gage poses Sept. 9 with his public art display, “Petal Parts,” in front of the Royal Oak Public Library.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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ROYAL OAK — Since last month, people walking downtown likely have noticed that a pair of new public art displays have popped up.

Located on the north side of the library is a piece called “Petal Parts,” created by Royal Oak artist Richard Gage, and at Fourth and Main streets is an 8 foot tall guitar called, aptly, “A Really Big Guitar,” by Brian Brook from Three Rivers, Mich.

The two sculptures are the first installments of Art Explored, a city program aiming to bring six art pieces to downtown Royal Oak.

A third piece of art, which will be situated in a tree, is to be on display soon, said Stewart Meek, the assistant city manager, and this month, the Commission for the Arts is judging the next round of public art pieces to be installed in the fall.

The goal of the public displays — and for the arts commission as a whole — is to encourage art throughout the city, but the public pieces can also be sold, helping out Michigan’s artists and providing the commission a 25 percent cut.

Gage said in a phone interview that he normally produces more subdued subjects with more natural colors, but because of the location he picked for “Petal Parts,” he decided to make something bright and less abstract for children.

“I realized with the library there was going to be a lot of children,” Gage said. “So I wanted to do something a little more identifiable to inspire the creative process for the kids who come to the library.”

The petals are made of plates of steel. The pistils are forged iron rods.

The combination of nature and metal symbolizes the relationship between nature and industry that can be seen throughout metro Detroit.

Brook, who as a social worker works with people attempting to restart their lives, repurposes pieces of metal he finds in city scrapyards for his art.

“There’s an analogy there,” he said. “I don’t throw people away. I instead establish a new life for them.

“And I don’t throw metal away. I establish a new life for that piece of metal.”

He was showing his work at this year’s Clay, Glass and Metal Show when the city approached him about having his art placed on public display. He agreed, and when he was told his project would sit at Fourth and Main, he decided to make his public piece music-focused because of the number of street performers who play near the location.

So he visited a scrapyard and assembled the really big guitar that sits there today.

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