BATTLE CREEK – ArtSensical sounds whimsical, but it’s also an initiative that’s based in the intentional.
“ArtSensical is a dynamic collaborative based in Battle Creek, that supports creating more public art, community building, tourism, and economic development throughout Calhoun County,” said Michelle Frank, facilitator of the project. “It is a catalyst for co-design and creation of place-making art that captivates all our senses.”
Frank said visitors to the various art displays can expect to see vibrant, playful and eye-opening murals, exhibits, “green sculptures”, special events and performances throughout the area.
Very little time elapsed between the announcement of the project two years ago and the creation and installation of art throughout Calhoun County. The majority of the pieces are totems located in places such as the Art Center of Battle Creek, a community garden on North Avenue, and Homer Middle School. The themes range from “You Are What You Eat”, apainted canvas that wraps around a tire-totem and features almost 200 different types of fruits and vegetables, depicting 3 drummers and a hound dog – creating music with their food, to “Flowers and Flags.”
There are eight totems with more planned, said Kimber Thompson, director of marketing for the Calhoun County Visitors Bureau. Thompson, who is also an artist, said she, Frank and Sabine LeDieu, a Marshall-based artist, created the ArtSensical project.
The totems, LeDieu said, are a good use of old tires. She said the goal is to have about 100 themed totems throughout the county.
“I think a lot of people are seeing them and commenting on them,” she said.
While creating art out of old tires may be daunting to many people, the founders of ArtSensical want residents to take the initiative and come up with their own art displays.
“We’d like to see the community grasp it and make their own art to beautify their own communities,”LeDieu said. “It’s very accessible, cheap and doable.”
Thompson said she and her ArtSensical founders came up with the name because it incorporates all types of art with all of the senses: traditional painting, music, taste (food/gardens), textures of fabrics/etc. for touch and even smell for some exhibits.
Current ArtSensical partners include Architecture + design, Inc. , Art Center of Battle Creek, BC Pulse, Battle Creek Downtown Partnership, Battle Creek Shopper News, Calhoun County, Calhoun County Arts Council, Calhoun County Visitors Bureau, City of Battle Creek; Humane Society of South Central Michigan, Kingman Museum, Leila Arboretum Society, Music Center, The Mylestone Project, Nonprofit Alliance; Public Works of Art and Scene Magazine
So far, ArtSensical has been supported with seed money from The Battle Creek Community Foundation through its “Livable Communities” grant; grants from the former Calhoun County Arts Council; and the Community Foundation Alliance of Calhoun County; Art Center of Battle Creek; as well as small businesses and individuals. Frank said this funding totals about $10,000 so far.
“We weren’t really chasing money,” said Frank, Principal Consultant, Experience Counts – A Search, Consulting & Project Management Firm, we just wanted to see more public art in our region.”
Not all of the projects will be art-related. The Art Center is planning to have an exhibit about recycling and a kinetic exhibit which uses all of the senses. Frank said this type of tactile will be especially good for people on the autism spectrum as well those with dementia.
The city’s Downtown Partnership will be doing a mural in Friendship Park. The Humane Society of South Central Michigan is planning a large-scale project on its property and the Kingman Museum will have a frog-themed totem.
LeDieu said she will continue to focus on art made from garbage and recyclable materials. She installed a large sculpture in front of Harper Creek Middle School called “Plastic Ocean” which is a giant world made of recycled steel and filled with empty plastic bottles.
“I work in garbage literally. Everything I do is environmentally focused to raise awareness of environmental issue and hopefully bring action,” LeDieu said. “I guess I got my passion from caring too much. This is my way of bringing my talent to make a difference. “
Plans are in the works which will be able to let people take guided tours of the art using their Smartphones. They will be able to access information about the piece they are looking at, its purpose and the artist who created it.
A major ArtSensical place-making project is being planned for June 13-20 at Leila Arboretum. The first-ever Battle Creek’s Fantasy Forest will feature artists armed with chainsaws, paintbrushes, pottery shards and other media who will turn dead trees into works of art. The trees were destroyed by the Emerald Ash Borer.
“Plans were quickly put into place to cut the trees down, but then we decided to turn the trunks into treasures with a unique art competition,” Thompson said.
Sixteen juried finalists will receive $500 each to come to Battle Creek to bring their creative vision to life. They will have 7-1/2 days to transform their designated tree into a work of art and the public will be able to watch the process. On June 20, 2015, the Top 3 artists will be announced and win: $5,000 Juried Grand Prize; $3,000 Juried 2nd Place Prize; and$1,000 People’s Choice Award.
“Traverse City has cherries and Grand Rapids has ArtPrize and this was a chance to literally have the community decide what they care about in our community and their neighborhoods,” Thompson said.
“It’s a little more vibrant and engages less traditional artists. All that we planned has not been realized yet, but we are continually working on incorporating new ventures as they are dreamed up and completed.”