Public Arts Commission has big goals for Niles

Leader photos/CRAIG HAUPERT New York-based artist Michael Hambouz, who grew up in Niles, discussed his life, work and inspiration at an event hosted by the Niles Public Art Commission Wednesday evening at the Niles District Library.

Leader photos/CRAIG HAUPERT
New York-based artist Michael Hambouz, who grew up in Niles, discussed his life, work and inspiration at an event hosted by the Niles Public Art Commission Wednesday evening at the Niles District Library.

Just six months after officially forming the organization, the Niles Public Art Commission hit the ground running with its first event Wednesday night.

Michael Hambouz, a Niles native, visited the Niles Library for a public art presentation and reception hosted by the new institution.

The New York City-based artist was born and raised in Niles, and although he has resided in Brooklyn since 2000, it is evident through his art that his roots have stuck with him.

“It seems so serendipitous that Michael Hambouz was our first artist, because he’s such a great example of Niles art,” said Jeanne Watson, chair of the commission.

The artist discussed his series, “Factory Made,” which is inspired by Niles’ French Paper Company.

The artist recalled memories of growing up in Niles, and discussed his development, process and professional practice as an artist in New York.

Hambouz said working on the “Factory Made” project allowed him to regain a sense of connection to Niles — one he said was severed when his mother, who lived in Niles, died in 2012.

“It was a positive thing for me to focus on when I was going through a really tough time,” he said. “The project gave me a distraction and a purpose to be here and reconnect with Niles.”

An opening party for Hambouz’s “Factory Made” exhibit is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. at the Krasl Art Center in St. Joseph. It will remain on display there through April 24.

 

More to come

 

Watson said this is the first of four similar events the commission hopes to host this year.

“In our bylaws, we’ve agree to do four art presentations with the public a year,” Watson said, explaining that the committee’s goals have expanded tremendously since its inception.

Artists Watson said the group would like to have present include Tuck Langland, a sculptor who they have enlisted to create a nine-foot sculpture called “Generation” to be placed in front of the Niles District Library.

Another goal of the commission includes relocating the sculpture in Riverfront Park to the east side of the bridge. Currently, the piece by Richard Hunt is often overlooked, as it is well below street level. The commission would like the sculpture to be placed on the green space between the bridge and the location of the former French Market.

Another goal Watson described as “lofty” would be to install 10 “larger-than-life” sculptures depicting pieces of Niles history.

“One could depict runaway slaves. One might be the Dodge brothers, or a Pokagon Indian dealing with a French trapper,” she said. “These would all have plaques explaining the history and relevance, educating the community.”

Eventually, the commission would like to offer opportunities for youth to learn art history, as well as some hands-on learning opportunities.

The commission currently includes seven members, who Watson said are passionate about bringing art to downtown, not only to enrich the culture of the City of Four Flags, but also to draw more people to town.

“They’re smart, hard-working patriots of Niles that really want to make this happen,” Watson said. “And I believe they will.”

The group is currently working to fundraise for the various projects listed in its goals, and plans to continue hosting events like the discussion with Hambouz while working toward some of the more long-term goals.

“When you think of Holland, you think of tulips. I want people, when they think of Niles, I want them to think, ‘that’s the town that has all the historic sculptures. That’s the town that has all the art,” Watson said.

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