Efforts ongoing to support public art in Marquette

Ex-Voto, the title of this exhibit by ceramic artist Scott Leipski, will be on display at the Marquette Arts and Culture Center until Saturday, Jan. 19. The artist is selling each of the 100 tiles that make up the exhibit as part of a fundraising effort to support public art in Marquette. The title of the exhibit stems from the word “offering.” In his exhibit, Leipski offers viewers nostalgic glimpses of his childhood memories in brightly colored, candy-like objects cast in clay.

Story and photo by Joseph Zyble
If new initiatives are successful, the public art scene in Marquette is going to bloom and grow for years to come. Last July, the City of Marquette rededicated its historic statue of the city’s namesake, and dedicated new features at Father Marquette Park, including the city’s second official work of public art: a steel sculpture representing the bow of a canoe located at the northeast entrance of the park.

More public art will follow. In 2014 the city included a public art policy in its masterplan. Under the plan, the city will contribute $30,000 annually to fund public art. The policy required the creation of a commission to oversee the city’s public art initiatives. Hence, Marquette Public Art Commission was formed last year.

Kristine Granger was appointed chairwoman of the commission. She is an artist, an art educator, and is responsible for the art that adorns Bay College campus both indoors and out.

She said the Marquette Public Art Commission has done a significant  amount of research to develop the best policy possible to serve the community for many years to come.

“We are focusing on putting policies and procedures in place for the future so that we have a guide. It will cover things like selecting public art, making requests for proposals, maintaining and taking care of the city’s public art,” she said.

Granger noted that the city’s documented commitment to public art is the first of its kind in the U.P., making the city a trailblazer in that regard.

“It’s really important for us to do the breadth and depth research so we can be a leader in this. Hopefully, other communities will follow,” she said.

The public art policies are expected to be completed by early springtime.

Another initiative that will support public art in the city is the creation of a non-profit organization known as Friends of Marquette Public Art. This organization is being established to help raise funds to support the city’s public art efforts, and is expected to be launched by early February.

Ceramic artist Scott Leipski of Gladstone, whose work is presently on exhibit at the Marquette Arts and Culture Center, has already partnered with the Friends of Marquette Public Art. He will donate 40 percent of the proceeds from the sales of his works in the exhibit to the fledgling organization. His 100-piece exhibit, titled Ex-Voto, will be at the arts center until Saturday, Jan. 19.

“As an artist, I am very excited about the new public art commission. I think art is at its best when it’s a partnership! The money could be used as direct support or as matching grant funds,” he said.

“Art in public spaces shows our history and our culture and adds a uniqueness to our communities. It also supports artists and creatives by validating them as important contributors to the community,” Leipski said.

Tiina Harris, arts and culture manager for the City of Marquette, said art enhances communities and Marquette is a perfect example of this.

“We’ve always been a cultural hub. Now we’re attracting young creatives. People are moving to areas for lifestyles –coffee houses, art galleries,” she said. “And we’re attracting really cool people.”

“People are taking a chance. We have artists who make a really good living here. We have a creative residency program that we’re accepting applications for right now.

“Other communities have asked what we’re doing and how. They’ve asked to see our plans. We are leading the way for the U.P. It’s not just Marquette; it’s building up the entire region. Art has no boundaries,” she said.

Another recent addition to the Marquette Arts scene was the unveiling last month of the Lake Superior Art Association’s Deo Art Gallery at the Marquette Arts and Culture Center. It was named for Jack and Cindy Deo, longtime supporters of arts in the community.

On Saturday, Jan. 19, the Lake Superior Art Association will co-host the 22nd Annual City of Marquette Art Awards.

“The Art Awards have evolved into something of a gala. It’s quite the event,” Harris said.

The event will be held at the Marquette Arts and Culture Center, located in the lower level of the Peter White Public Library building, beginning with a reception at 6:30 p.m. followed by the awards ceremony at 7:30 p.m.

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