Mount Clemens: It’s where the art is

Public art launches summer of inspiration

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published June 21, 2019

 A large art installation called “The Beauty of Letting Go,” designed and created by Sarah Smith, of Clinton Township, will be on display outside the Anton Art Center in Mount Clemens through September. Several other public artworks are on display around the city this summer as part of KaBoom! and the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation’s Play Everywhere grant challenge.

A large art installation called “The Beauty of Letting Go,” designed and created by Sarah Smith, of Clinton Township, will be on display outside the Anton Art Center in Mount Clemens through September. Several other public artworks are on display around the city this summer as part of KaBoom! and the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation’s Play Everywhere grant challenge.

Photo provided by Sarah Smith

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MOUNT CLEMENS — Mount Clemens has been transformed into a massive outdoor art gallery following the recent installation of some public art.

According to Anton Art Center Director Phil Gilchrist, a partnership between the art center, the city, the Macomb Family YMCA and Advancing Macomb recently resulted in the installation of four separate public art pieces in the downtown area.

The public art project executes the vision of KaBoom! and the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation’s Play Everywhere grant challenge to bring “play to unexpected but everyday spaces, making it easy and available for kids and families.”

“The Play Everywhere project has been very well-received by city residents and visitors,” Gilchrist said. “Our artists have reported great community feedback and have mentioned that residents have been very curious, with lots of questions, but the overall feeling seems to be that our community enjoys these new murals and are glad to see them being installed here.”

The stairs to the Clinton River off of North Gratiot Avenue were transformed by Wendy Popko, a muralist, portrait artist and children’s book illustrator from Macomb Township. Popko’s creation is of native fish swimming in a pool of vibrant color and incorporates mathematical equations to add a learning component.

The Cherry Street alley mural, off of Macomb Place, was created by mother-and-daughter team Angelika and Alana Wynes, both of Mount Clemens. Their mural depicts a scene that “reveals the history of the city and all its wonders” and highlights the city’s connection to the Clinton River.

The projects at the Anton Art Center and the Macomb Family YMCA were undertaken as volunteer projects, and both encourage passersby to engage with the art. The YMCA piece features a compass-style hopscotch grid to entice people into a round of the classic game, while the Anton Art Center features painted picture frames on the walkways to serve as a canvas for chalk art.

Also outside the Anton Art Center is a large sculpture called “The Beauty of Letting Go,” by Sarah Smith, of Clinton Township.

“The original design for ‘The Beauty of Letting Go’ actually was drawn up in a five-minute sketch, and then the idea grew from there,” said Smith, a Regina High School graduate and Central Michigan University alumna. “It was after that and when I started construction when I started realizing what it meant to me.”

The sculpture features a rainbow-colored collection of over 400 hand-fabricated butterflies scattering into the sky from the hand of an aluminum wire sculpture in the shape of a young girl. A preliminary version of this artwork was featured in recent years at the newly biennial ArtPrize artist competition in Grand Rapids.

“I love using art as a form of expression,” said Smith, who works as a behavioral therapist for Beaumont Health and as a freelance graphic designer. “I see it as a way to step away from the real world and dive into your own personal thoughts and feelings. I personally am more introverted but find myself looking for ways to express myself and let my true colors shine.

“And I believe that there is so much more than meet — the eye in everyone we meet, they just need to open up and let it outpour from them,” continued Smith, who works with children who have autism. “So to me, the sculpture shows this beauty of being able to let go and express whatever you wish, and letting your true inner beauty shine through and touch the world.”

She said the construction involved a lot more thought, trial and error from that quick sketch.

“I went through many different materials and designs before I was able to find the design that would best fit the message being portrayed and be structurally sound,” Smith said. “I am constantly updating the design and looking for ways to improve the piece, and it has been an on-and-off project ever since I started building it for Art Prize in 2017.”

Gilchrist said the piece, which will be on public display through Sept. 30, is a “beautiful addition to the Manoogian Art Park.” It reaches 15 feet high, 35 feet long and 15 feet wide, stretching across the pavement and grassy area of the property located on the corner of South Gratiot Avenue and Macomb Place.

“Her colorful, handcrafted butterflies really soar above the space and guide the viewer’s eye to the figure of the girl who released them,” he said.

For more information about Smith, visit sarahksmithdesigns.com. For more information about the Anton Art Center and the recent art collaboration, visit theartcenter.org or advancingmacomb.com.

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