Jacksonport Hesitates About Accepting Art Donation

After advising the Jacksonport Town Board in late summer and again in October to turn down an art donation, the parks committee in December again received a request to find an outdoor location for Richard Edelman’s sculpture, “Michigan Water”.

Town board supervisor and parks liaison Renn Jervis and park committee member Emily Roedl urged committee members not to reject a resident’s donation of the 9.5-foot-tall, 470-pound metal sculpture. But by the end of the meeting, the committee members still did not agree on accepting the art. 

Roedl, who’s new to the committee, emphasized that before rejecting this donation or accepting others in the future, the town should have a committee or guidelines that deal with public art. Committee members agreed to consider those guidelines while working this winter and spring on a comprehensive plan for the parks.

Roedl said the sculpture with the wave-like shape on top and tall, metal rectangular base should be considered since it’s a “quality piece” by an artist with a good reputation. 

Edelman, a Milwaukee artist with works on display throughout Milwaukee, in Door County and in Krakow, Poland, received the Frank L. Weil Award for the Advancement of Jewish Culture in North America in 2016. That award is not presented every year. Recipients include conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein, and author Isaac Bashevis Singer.

The Village of Egg Harbor displays three Edelman metal sculptures, including “Blue Sail” at its marina.

In early fall, the park committee and chair Les Kiehnau discussed locations, considering Schauer Park and boat launch on the lake and ruling out Lakeside Park – where the committee desires a natural setting with limited obstructions of the lake view. Kiehnau said the park committee tries to limit manmade objects in Lakeside Park – such as not displaying plaques on donated trees so the park won’t look like a cemetery.

Jacksonport Parks Committee Chair Les Kiehnau points at the only spot for an outdoor sculpture in Schauer Park that would not block the view to the lake. Photo by Craig Sterrett.

None of the more than one dozen residents in attendance during the committee’s September meeting spoke in favor of accepting the sculpture, and one, Tom Maher, said the metal sculpture didn’t fit the current mission to emphasize natural spaces. The park board did suggest one location at the end of a road where barricades currently stand.

In December, Kiehnau asked Jarvis to tell the town board the committee did its due diligence and the decision was up to the town board.

Kiehnau said he did not want the sculpture in a dynamic location such as portions of Schauer Park with clear views of the lake, but maybe the town could consider a southeast corner of Schauer Park that has trees and some brush that needs “some cleaning up” or a “static” location elsewhere in town.