Art movement adding color to our region

Published 9:16 am Thursday, March 24, 2016

Travel to a big city and you’ll find art all over the place.

Chicago has long been known for its public art like “The Bean” in Millenium Park. You’ve probably seen pictures of people posed near Indianapolis’ “Love” sculpture. Every day on my way to work at my college newspaper I passed a giant whale sprawled out across the lawn, a sculpture that invoked ample conversation and was the object of countless photo shenanigans.

These figures become icons for the communities in which they are installed. More than just decorations, they become reference points, landmarks and conversation starters.

Monday morning, I chatted with a number of Niles leaders who recognize the value of public art.

City leaders and members of the Niles Public Art Commission gathered in Riverfront Park to meet with Richard Hunt, a world-renowned sculptor who created “Hybrid Form 2” in 1974.

Since then, the sculpture has been property of the City of Niles. The abstract modernistic piece sat near the Main Street Bridge for decades, but was relocated during construction.

Now, the city is looking to find a new home for the sculpture. As part of that process, Hunt, now 81, traveled to Niles from Chicago to review a number of options proposed by the city and the commission and offer his opinion.

I was happy to see so many people invested in the project, willing to take time out of their busy schedules to weigh in on the relocation.

The same art organization is in the process of planning and fundraising for a variety of new sculptures depicting Niles history. Similar to Dowagiac’s sculpture collection, the art pieces would be located all over the city, designed to draw tourists to downtown and tell the story of Niles.

Niles Public Art Commission Chair Jeanne Watson says there might be a sculpture of Tommy James, a famous recording artist. Another sculpture might depict the native Americans who were the first to call the region home. Ring Lardner, a famous Niles journalist, may also be represented, among other local icons.

Another organization, the Niles DDA, has been working hard to prepare hand-painted benches to be dispersed throughout the city around Earth Day. The benches were paid for by local sponsors and painted by Niles artists. What better way is there to display the local art movement?

I’m pleased to see all the hard work so many people are putting in to making downtown come to life with art, whether through pieces we’ve had for a long time or through new installations showcasing the city’s history and current artists.

Niles may not be a big city, but with all the local color being added, the future sure seems to be bright.


Ambrosia Neldon is the managing editor at Leader Publications. She can be reached by phone at (269) 687-7713, or by email at