The next chapter

‘The Boy and Bear’ sculpture revealed at library

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published June 1, 2016

 Southfield residents Peyton Philyaw, 10; Piper-Rose Patrick, 4; Isabella Dease, 9; and Peyton Seldon, 9, pose with Marshall Fredericks’ “The Boy and Bear” sculpture May 24 during its unveiling in the lobby of the Southfield Public Library.

Southfield residents Peyton Philyaw, 10; Piper-Rose Patrick, 4; Isabella Dease, 9; and Peyton Seldon, 9, pose with Marshall Fredericks’ “The Boy and Bear” sculpture May 24 during its unveiling in the lobby of the Southfield Public Library.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

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SOUTHFIELD — A beloved Southfield landmark now has a new home at the Southfield Public Library.

Officials from the city and the Southfield Public Arts Commission gathered with residents May 23 in the lobby of the library, 26000 Evergreen Road, for the official homecoming ceremony for the “The Boy and Bear” sculpture, by American sculptor Marshall Fredericks.

“We wanted to make sure (the sculpture) stays in Southfield, not auctioned off and lost forever,” Mayor Ken Siver said.

The sculpture was formerly placed at Northland Center. After the mall closed nearly a year ago, Siver said, the city stepped in to seal the fate of the mall’s various art pieces.

Built in 1954, Northland Center, 21500 Northwestern Highway,  was one of the nation’s first suburban malls. Eight months after a judge ruled that Northland Center would close, the city of Southfield announced the purchase of the mall in October 2015.

The city announced that it had purchased the mall from the court-ordered receiver for $2.4 million and planned to demolish, remediate and sell the property to a qualified developer.

Previously, Siver said the court-appointed receiver of the mall was looking to raise capital to keep current with the mall’s bills. The receiver 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 that when he heard the art would be sold at auction, he knew he had to act fast. The city secured a low-interest loan of $500,000 for the art pieces.

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

As of May 23, Siver said the commission had raised $485,000 toward its goal of $600,000.

City Administrator Fred Zorn, City Council President Myron Frasier, Councilman Donald Fracassi, City Librarian Dave Ewick, Public Arts Commission Chair Delores Flagg and members of the Southfield Public Library board attended the unveiling ceremony.

“It’s a gorgeous day. You could have been someplace else, but you chose here because this is a landmark day to unveil ‘The Boy and Bear’ in the city of Southfield at our library,” Frasier said.

Flagg said public art is of major importance to the city.

“If ‘The Boy and Bear’ could speak right now, I think it would say, ‘Thank you, Southfield; thank you, Mayor Siver; thank you, council; and thank you. My new home is the Southfield Public Library, and I’m glad I’m home,’” Flagg said.

American sculptor Marshall Fredericks was one of six artists commissioned by J.L. Hudson  to create a sculpture for the mall when it opened in 1954. Fredericks reportedly created the statue to appeal to children. The statue was carved in limestone, and the boy is cast in bronze and is gold-plated.

Public art also instills place-making in the city, Zorn said.

“This art adds a sense of place in the community,” he said.

Several current and former residents also shared happy memories of the sculpture.

“When I was a kid, I used to ride my bicycle to Northland all the time,” Dan Maslanik, of Southfield, said. “As I grew up, I sat on that bear and I played with that bear, and that bear is part of me.”

Diane Anderson, of Birmingham, said she saw the life of the mall come full circle.

“I was at Northland the day it opened, and I was at Northland the day it closed, and ‘The Boy and Bear’ has always been part of my life that whole time,” Anderson said.

Last year, a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. was donated to the library by artist and former Southfield resident James Spearman. The bust currently sits in the lobby of the library.

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