Beacon by John DeHoog and Brian Nelson

The Beacon Project

The newest addition to the Art Park is a result of the 2016 Artist Residency. We were happy to have John DeHoog and Brian Nelson create Beacon as our artists-in-residence this summer.

Both artists are instructors at Eastern Michigan University, so they were able to utilize the Parsons Center as their studio. The Jean Noble Parsons Center for the Study of Art & Science is a wonderful Eastern Michigan University facility that is located near the Art Park in Lake Ann. With this studio nearby, the artists could have all the tools and resources they needed close at hand, and also use their time as resident artists to mentor their students as well.

Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery

It was a great opportunity for young art students to see their instructors at work, the processes of a residency, as well as the nuts and bolts (literally) of installing public sculpture.

Along the way, the artists shared some photo journals as the work took shape:

Beacon Artists’ Journal

Beacon is a collaborative project based on the idea of combining architecture and sculpture. The form makes reference to lighthouses, water buoys, and smoke stacks (elements from our rural and urban Michigan landscape), and uses architectural processes, materials, and principles but for a sculptural end. We hope that viewers appreciate the recognizable elements (foundation, walls, window, drain) and realize how their unexpected use makes the sculpture work as whole.

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The beginnings of Beacon started out with sketches, and a scale model on the theme of melding sculpture and architecture. The form makes reference to lighthouses, water buoys, and smoke stacks – part of our rural and urban Michigan landscape.

Dimensions are decided and the framework is begun at the newly renovated EMU Sculpture Studio in Ypsilanti, Michigan. It stands 10 feet tall.

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On July 6, we arrive up north, and walk the new ADA accessible trail at Michigan Legacy Art Park. After much discussion and deliberation, we settle on a site for the sculpture: nestled into the hill next to the trail and adjacent to the amphitheater. There was a need for more sculptures in this area, and we found the perfect location.

On July 7, after a minimal amount of excavating, Brian touches up the site where we placed forms for pouring three concrete footings.

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On July 11, we set up a concrete mixing station, and Brian speaks with a group of park attendees about the Beacon project. He explains how we plan to pour three footings and fill the base of the sculpture with concrete in order to ensure its stability and durability.

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EMU Art alumna Molly Doak, helps John carry the stainless steel base.

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EMU Art alumni Molly Doak and Lauren Mleczko stand with Brian after pouring the footings and aligning the bolts.

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John and Brian prepare the base, ready to fill with concrete.

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The base filled with concrete and ready to cure.

Meanwhile, in the Parsons Center studio in Lake Ann, John and Brian carefully cut and fit cedar siding on the framework. Once complete, all parts are labeled and will be disassembled in order to transport it to MLAP.

John DeHoog and Brian Nelson

Brian Nelson working on art project

On July 14, a highly motivated group of students from the Parsons Center help lift the base (some 300 lbs!) and fit it through the bolts and onto the footings.

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After the base is set, the group carries the frame up the hill.

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Students lower the frame at the site.

With a bit of both finesse and brute force, the frame is fit through the footing bolts and onto the stainless steel.

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John begins to reattach the sheathing.

After a morning of work and assistance from students, the sculpture is secured in place, sheathed and ready for reattaching the cedar siding.

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On July 18 and 19, we add the cedar siding, nailing each board in place with stainless steel nails. Here Brian prepares to set the drip pan – an architectural element that will deliberately splash rain water down the angled side of the sculpture.

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John cuts and trims small strips of cedar to line the interior of the open top.

On July 19, John and Brian were able to officially present the finished piece to Art Park visitors.

Beacon by John DeHoog and Brian Nelson

Beacon by John DeHoog and Brian Nelson

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