The Broad Museum exhibition focuses on public art – City Pulse | Candle Made Easy


Seemingly invisible works of art in public space become visible again in a new exhibition at the Broad Art Museum.

Public art in the Lansing area is the focus of Art Along the River, Grand, which opened this month as part of the museum’s 10th anniversary series. Designed by the late architect Zaha Hadid, the museum is itself considered a work of avant-garde public art.

Steven Bridges, the museum’s senior curator, said he’s interested in having a conversation about the role of public art — an art form he says is often forgotten.

The exhibition shows framed blueprints for “This Equals That” by internationally renowned sculptor Michael Heizer. The 1980 work was installed in the West Plaza of the State Capitol Complex under the direction of Governor William Milliken and attracted visitors from around the world. But in 2002, Gov. John Engler ordered it removed for repair work in a garage below. Damaged in the process, it was taken unprotected to a state field in Mason, then acquired by Detroit billionaire Alex Manoogian and stored in a warehouse never to be seen again.

The blueprint frames are overlaid on a wallpaper collage of images of public creative expression. The photographic images in the floor-to-ceiling wallpaper were captured by Bill Castanier, whose work has been described as taking a “uniquely democratic approach” to documenting public art. It shows how people have given color and texture to their surroundings. Visitors can recognize specific locations by looking at the wallpaper.

“Hopefully it sparks a little interest,” Bridges said of the wallpaper collage. “It’s not about distinguishing what is art and what isn’t, or what is good and what is bad. Let’s just celebrate and absorb all of the incredible expressions that exist around us all the time.”

Castanier, a longtime City Pulse collaborator, is President of the Historical Society of Greater Lansing. He is fascinated by public creative expression and has been documenting public art in the area since the 1970s. He took the pictures last year.

“Lansing has amazing public art,” Castanier said. “I don’t think people realize it.”

Simple shop signs will catch Castanier’s attention, but more complex work will also draw his attention. Signs like the one for the Einhorn Lounge in the old town can be found in the wallpaper.

“You can drive around town and see things that make you smile, frown and teach you a lesson,” he said.

Castanier said much of the documentation is for himself and the Historical Society. Many pieces are undocumented, their creators unknown. His images could one day serve as artifacts of what public art used to look like, something that is constantly changing over time.

The exhibition encourages visitors to explore the resources available to examine local art in public spaces. A feature of the exhibit is a video showing the various artworks in public spaces on the MSU campus, which has recently focused on installing work that promotes diversity and inclusion. Visitors can scan a QR code to see the locations in the video.

One aim of the exhibition is to show the historical lack of diversity and inclusion in the field of public art. Some pieces in the exhibit that show diversity are from the Lansing Art Gallery’s ArtPath, a two-and-a-half-mile exhibit along the Lansing River Trail.

Bridges said the pieces look at public art “through the lens of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.” It’s important to exhibit the work of marginalized artists — especially black people and women — because they’re “historically excluded” from the public art scene, he said.

This idea was adapted into one of the museum’s main exhibits, History Told Slant: Seventy-seven Years of Collecting Art at MSU, which showcases the museum’s extensive art collection, much of which is kept out of sight. The exhibition addresses “historical blind spots or biases” with the intention of encouraging a more diverse narrative.

Bridges described the public art exhibition as taking a more historical look at public art and acknowledging the way it was an exclusionary process. In doing so, the exhibition also highlights more local and recent initiatives that correct some of these stories with a “decolonizing lens”.

“Public art is so wonderful and such an important part of our landscape,” said Bridges. “It exists all around us. I think there is a way it can become invisible as well.”

Bridges hopes this exhibition will shed a “light” on public art in the Lansing area. Public art is a free experience and contributes to the culture of the city.

“There’s always something for everyone,” Bridges said. “And I think that’s one of the most wonderful things about public art, isn’t it?”

Although Art Along the River, Grand is only on view until August 23, public art in the Greater Lansing region is on display year-round.

MSU Broad Art Museum

547 E. Circle Dr., East Lansing

10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Thursday – Sunday

Free ticket reservation required.

MSU requires proof of vaccination or recent negative attend COVID-19 test. Masks are mandatory.

(517) 884-4800

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