Cherries Jubilee Celebrates 21 Years of Public Art in Sturgeon Bay

Cherry-picking season may have ended, but Sturgeon Bay is still honoring the peninsula’s iconic stone fruit through its annual public-art display. 

Gigantic cherries have lined the streets of downtown Sturgeon Bay throughout the summer, and soon they’ll be auctioned off. But these aren’t the edible kind – there’s one built of steel, another arranged out of driftwood and many covered in layers of paint. Twenty-five cherry-shaped sculptures make up Cherries Jubilee 2021. 

The public-art project started 21 years ago with fiberglass sturgeons. Themes have rotated every few years ever since to include lighthouses, sailboats, benches, chairs and now cherries. Destination Sturgeon Bay auctions off the sculptures at the end of the public display, with proceeds split between the artists and the Sturgeon Bay Beautification Fund. 

“Public street art has become a staple to the Sturgeon Bay community,” said Carly Sarkis, the marketing and events director for Destination Sturgeon Bay. “We create a walking map each year that follows our bridge walk, so it’s also a great way to see Sturgeon Bay and get your steps in.” 

The map of the sculptures shows five located along the West Waterfront and 20 between 1st and 8th Avenues on the east. It numbers the sculptures to suggest a walking route that crosses the water twice: first across the historic Michigan Street bridge from the east, then back via the Oregon Street bridge. 

A panel of local judges selects 25 artists to participate after reviewing the submitted applications. Artists may apply paint, mosaic pieces and other media to a templated cherry and stand provided by Destination Sturgeon Bay, or they may create a free-form cherry. Free-form examples this year include sculptures made of metal, wood and stained glass.

Incorporating cherry themes and puns, the creative titles of the art projects delight, too. Welded license plates cover “Prunus Weldius,” and cherry and nautical-themed images wrap around “Cherry-Go-Round.” A giant silver spoon digs into the “chocolate” covering the sculpture titled “Chocolate-Covered Bliss.” 

A live, virtual auction has been taking place over many weeks on the Handbid app, and it will end Sept. 18 at 5:30 pm. Handbid allows bidders to participate remotely, and it sends a notification when someone outbids them. 

During Labor Day weekend, the cherry sculptures were moved to Martin Park for a collective display before the auction ends. Then Let’s Go Door County hosts an auction preview on the final day, going through each project and interviewing attending artists. 

“I love seeing the artists at the end of the year – so proud of their work, and seeing the wheels turning in their heads as they prepare their design for the next year,” Sarkis said.


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