Huron River sculptures partial casualties of recent thunderstorms
James David Dickson | AnnArbor.com
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.
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com
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 JamesDickson@AnnArbor.com.