Sculpture tour showcases nature through art

Published 1:33 pm Monday, April 25, 2011

Water Street Glassworks artists Jerry Cantania and Josh Andres created tee marker sculptures for a fundraising tour of Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor. Photo by Kathleen Dayle Schwarz


Blue Star Highway

During coverage of The Masters golf tournament on Saturday, Apr. 9, CBS broadcasted a special presentation of “Harbor Shores: Champions for Change,” with highlights from the charity golf tournament that took place last summer.

Meanwhile, Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor bustled not with golfers, but art enthusiasts who turned out for the Water Street Glassworks Sculpture Tour. The event featured self-guided golf cart tours of the course and the tee marker sculptures created by Water Street Glassworks artists Jerry Catania and Josh Andres, followed by a reception at Water Street Glassworks.

Attendees were provided with a booklet created for the event, with excerpts from a soon-to-be published book celebrating the artwork and artistic nature of Harbor Shores. They then set out to experience firsthand the vibrant ecological bounty of Michigan’s Great Southwest.

Seeded within this naturalist’s dream are Catania’s and Andres’ unique artistic interpretations of the surrounding landscape, delicately intimated through sweeping lines of curved steel and radiant glasswork — art truly imitating life.

The purpose of this event was to raise funds for the state-mandated ventilation system that must be installed this summer at Water Street Glassworks. The non-profit organization resides in the Hinkley Building, located in the historic Benton Harbor Arts District, where Jerry Catania built his studio in 2004.

A partnership forged with steel

When Harbor Shores came to Catania with the sculpture series proposal and a two-month timetable, the master glassblower was excited about the project, but knew he would need some help.

To complete the project in time for the opening of the full 18-hole course, Catania enlisted the help of fellow WSG artist Josh Andres.

“Josh (Andres) and I had never worked together before, so we weren’t really sure how it would all work out,” he said. “We managed to pull it off and, in the end, the combination of his metalwork with my glasswork resulted in some really unique artwork.”

The endeavor also provided a boost for the local art community.

“This has become a very large, high-profile project. Up until now it has been very difficult to find projects that display the local artists. I’ve never seen a corporate group so sincerely excited about the artwork that we’re working on,” said Catania.

While working on the Harbor Shores sculpture series, Catania and Andres forged an amiable partnership and plan to continue working together in the future. Their next joint project will be an 18-foot tall sculpture to be installed at the new InterCare community health center, located on the corner of M-139 and Empire Avenue in Benton Harbor

Artwork relates rebirth of natural landscape

Last summer, Harbor Shores commissioned the WSG artists to create a series of unique sculptures that would serve as tee-markers for each of the 18 holes, and tell the story of Jack Nicklaus’ remarkable 18 Major tournament titles.

Each hole on the Jack Nicklaus Signature Course is dedicated to a particular plant life species found within its boundaries. With names like “Arrow Arum,” “Dune Grass” and “Primrose,” Catania and Andres were charged with creating an artistic rendering for each hole to celebrate its plant-life namesake.

Today, The Golf Club at Harbor Shores is a rolling environmental wonderland, featuring a wide variation in landscapes — prairie, dunes, lake, two rivers, woodlands and wetlands are all highlighted in this microcosm of the most ecologically-diverse county in Michigan.

Mimicking aspects of such natural beauty was not an easy undertaking, according to Andres.

“I had to create this beautiful, natural image out of a very cold, industrial material. It’s not easy, but it’s very fulfilling to turn something very rigid and flat into something soft, organic, alive,” he said.

Andres formed the tee-markers with Corten steel, a material that oxidizes quickly on the surface forming a gritty, rust-like seal to prevent further deterioration. A large portion of the Harbor Shores acreage was once the heart of heavy industry — an ironic transformation well noted by the artists. The raw Corten steel framing of the sculptures, embellished with Catania’s brilliant glasswork, pays homage to past Rust Belt industry and celebrates present restoration of natural beauty to this sanctuary along the Paw Paw River and Lake Michigan.

Art reaches out

After the sculpture tour a reception was held at Water Street Glassworks, where attendees got to see the glass studio in action. Fueled by gelato from the adjoining Water Street Gelatoworks, attendees looked in on WSG students hard at work from a catwalk overlooking the studio. Many bid on artwork in a silent auction to support the Capital Campaign, and checked out pieces made by “FiredUp!” students.

Proceeds from Water Street Gelatoworks, an extension of WSG, help support “Fired Up!,” an after-school program at WSG for at-risk Benton Harbor youth.

“FiredUp!” students learn problem-solving, basic business skills and create their own artwork by learning an assortment of glass and metal-working techniques. The program is in its seventh year and has mentored more than 85 students to date.

To register for classes at Water Street Glassworks or get more information on “FiredUp!,” visit