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Posted on Wed, Jun 16, 2010 : 6:03 a.m.

Huron River sculptures partial casualties of recent thunderstorms

By James Dickson


This sign marks where Valence once stood in the Huron River at Gallup Park. Valence was dislodged in the recent thunderstorms but will be reinstalled soon.

James David Dickson |

Visitors to Gallup Park hoping to see "Valence," the sculpture placed in the Huron River by University of Michigan visiting artist William Dennisuk, will walk away disappointed over the next few days.

"Valence," along with its counterpart "Pulse" in the Nichols Arboretum, were partial casualties of the thunderstorms that hit Ann Arbor on June 6. Neither project was destroyed, but both were dislodged, despite an estimated 800 pounds of concrete mounting on each.

Dennisuk's works are a part of his Vessels Project, a three-part sculpture series designed to highlight the balance between nature, art and the environment. Part I, "Spin," still resides in the Lurie Reflecting Pool on North Campus. Valence was part II. Pulse, or part III, is in the Huron as it winds through the Arb.

Though Dennisuk's works caused some controversy - everybody loves the Huron River - Chrisstina Hamilton, director of the Roman Witt Residency Program that sponsored Dennisuk's fellowship, doesn't believe vandalism is to blame.

The real culprit was the thunderstorms on Sunday, June 6 - thunderstorms that developed into tornadoes not far south of Ann Arbor.

Ann Arbor police were called initially, but routed the call to the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office, the only police agency in the county with a dive team. Divers were dispatched to the Arb and to Gallup Park to recover the works.

Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the sheriff's office, said the call initially came in as a theft, but deputies were soon able to locate both pieces.

Valence Gallup.jpg

The Valence sculpture, in better days.

Lon Horwedel |

Pulse is still in the Huron, turned on its side. But Valence has been pulled from the river for the time being. It will be reinstalled shortly, just as the piece in the Arb will be stood upright, Hamilton said. The staffer who will do that job is out of town, but will be back soon.

The displacement of Dennisuk's vessels is ironic, considering the lengthy permitting process the artist waded into to place them in the Huron - a first in Ann Arbor history.

"We were surprised they didn't stay in place," Hamilton said. "When we were trying to obtain the permits to place the sculptures, a lot of the questions were about how we'd keep it weighed down if people were climbing on it."

Dennisuk, who has returned to Finland, said via e-mail that he's been relying on reports from Ann Arbor on the condition of the sculptures.

"I think it is good that there is a plan in place to re-stage the sculptures, as well as plenty of time for people to view and enjoy the works during the summer and autumn," Dennisuk wrote. "...Whenever you step outdoors - and into the public realm - there are a number of unknown variables (both in terms of the overall permission process and the vagaries of weather and public reception)."

The works had been up less than two weeks before being displaced by the elements.

Hamilton said the works were reinforced with an estimated 800 pounds of concrete each. It wasn't enough.

"Maybe we'll have to put a few hundred extra pounds on to keep them in the river," Hamilton said.

James David Dickson can be reached at



Wed, Jun 16, 2010 : 12:18 p.m.

"This isn't 'plop art,' where you kind of just install it then walk away I guess its the kind of art where you get on a plane and fly away.


Wed, Jun 16, 2010 : 12:14 p.m.

"This isn't 'plop art,' where you kind of just install it then walk away," Dennisuk said of his works, which he's calling the Vessel Project. "My works are meant to interact with their surroundings, to make you think about the interplay between yourself and art and nature." Now that nature has interacted with the art, now he can interplay with himself and nature while donning waders.


Wed, Jun 16, 2010 : 11:21 a.m.

I second bells comments!


Wed, Jun 16, 2010 : 9:31 a.m.

I'm with Topcat here! Leave the river alone! She is a lovely gem in her own right. She does not need gaudy baubles to improve her appearance. They only detract from her natural beauty.


Wed, Jun 16, 2010 : 9:12 a.m.

Maybe fishing will improve now that there is some new underwater structure

Top Cat

Wed, Jun 16, 2010 : 8:48 a.m.

This is "art"? It looks like a light bulb. One more example of nature trying to purge itself of the crap we put in it. Leave the damn river alone.


Wed, Jun 16, 2010 : 8:47 a.m.

And who pays for the Dive Team?


Wed, Jun 16, 2010 : 8:27 a.m.

I don't see any urgency to this. If a piece of artwork (or for that matter any item that your life does not depend on) breaks at your house, and you have no money at the time to spend on fixing it, what do you do? You stick it in the garage, in the basement, or in a closet. When your finances allow, then you pay to have it repaired. Certainly think this same principle applies in this situation.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Jun 16, 2010 : 7:27 a.m.

"...dislodged, despite an estimated 800 pounds of concrete mounting on each." So there is 800 pounds of concrete in the river? I was thinking of redoing my driveway. In what part of the river should I dump my old driveway?


Wed, Jun 16, 2010 : 7:15 a.m.

If there ever was a sign from God, that was it :-)

mike from saline

Wed, Jun 16, 2010 : 7:01 a.m.

There are many examples where art and nature can coincide and comp- liment each other. They're called golf courses!


Wed, Jun 16, 2010 : 6:35 a.m.

Art 0 - Nature 1. I believe nature has quickly spoken and wants the works to reside at their new location, much like a shipwreck or Atlantis shouldn't be disturbed so too these. Perhaps in a few millenia they will be turned upright again. If these works were designed to be part of nature we should let them truly become part of it as they have.


Wed, Jun 16, 2010 : 6:14 a.m.

I have some tomato trellises I can stick in the river...looks about the same.

dading dont delete me bro

Wed, Jun 16, 2010 : 6:04 a.m.

methinks their art should involve an ark of some sort... dading!


Wed, Jun 16, 2010 : 5:54 a.m.

Don't mess with Mother Nature!