Grand Traverse Herald A weekly community newspaper covering Traverse City and its adjacent townships
Sculpture transforms campus Four CHS students worked on project since November with area sculptor By Carol South Herald contributing writer
When Traverse City Central High School students arrived on campus Tuesday morning, the courtyard sported a new feature: a bright orange modern art sculpture.
Celebrating the school's first public piece of art, two dozen people gathered Monday afternoon to dedicate the sculpture. Eight months in the making, the six-foot tall piece was installed on a temporary base Monday; later it will be permanently situated on a round pedestal that will rotate.
The piece will be a focal point for informal outdoor gatherings at the school. 'What we are trying to do is create the space out here for an outdoor commons area for the students,' said Mike Murray, principal of Central High School. 'The [nearby] flagpole is not only for the flag but a gathering place for students, this just adds to the feeling.'
Four graduating seniors — Max Bruening, Brian Butzier, Matt Hansen and Cassie Heuton — worked since November on their own time with Bob Purvis, a Suttons Bay artist and sculptor. Hansen, who will attend Kendall School of Design in Grand Rapids next fall, designed the piece.
Viewed in place for the first time Monday afternoon, climbed on and petted and admired, the sculpture won high marks from its creators. The culmination of months of design and construction became the high point of the project. 'Take simplicity and make something cool, that was our goal,' noted Bruening of the piece, as yet unnamed. 'It has life.'
Aspiring artist Heuton, who will also attend Kendall School of Design next year, said the design invites people into the sculpture where they can relate to it. 'It needs to be interactive, that's part of it, adding more to it,' she said. 'Because it's art in many different aspects.'
The idea for the artwork grew out of the Traverse City Senior High class of 1965's 40th reunion last year. In addition to creating two $1,000 scholarships for a Central High School 2006 graduate to use at Northwestern Michigan College, class members set up a fundraising silent auction to benefit the school. Consulting with principal Mike Murray, they earmarked proceeds for a landscaping project.
When Purvis, a member of that class, got a call asking him to donate a piece of art to the auction, the furniture maker and metal smith suggested instead the student-led project.
'I said, 'Give me some money and I will go have an interaction with some of the students and at the end of which we will come up with a sculpture for the campus,'' he recalled, adding of his alma mater: 'There is not any public art on the grounds of the school and the first class graduated in 1960.' Purvis met with students weekly beginning in November. They drew countless ideas over the winter before making cardboard models of favorites. Then Purvis led what he termed a design charette, where participants put their models one at a time in the middle of the table for comment.
'Everybody is free to say what they want to say, but nothing personal or attacking,' said Purvis. '[We] evaluate the work: what does it look like, how to make it better and what will it look like in the space it will be in.' After that, the students, Purvis and art teacher Karen Hoth tweaked the models to reflect the evaluations and comments. The students then voted on the four designs, with each student abstaining from voting on his own idea. Hansen's design won.
Purvis led the construction effort, completing the painting last Friday at his Suttons Bay studio. Students as well as Hansen's father, Dan, pitched in on the building; Dan Hansen also crafted the temporary base.
Purvis, who teaches student groups around the region, relished working with the four teens. The opportunity to create art with students, however, is becoming less common, especially on the scale of this larger piece.
'Doing a piece like we did, having the experience of thinking about and drawing and making models of a piece that is destined to be outdoors is just an experience that these kids just don't have,' he said. 'But from a broader standpoint, it's a great opportunity for people from the community to step forward and say if you want to have an experience of this kind we'll help.'