Local maker creates art to display in Dowagiac’s Snow Building

Published 8:00 am Thursday, March 24, 2016

(Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

(Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Some pleasant —and familiar — sights greeted recent visitors to the James E. Snow Professional Building as they made their way through the main entrance hallway.

Late last week, the city installed a quartet of wood-burned art pieces depicting famous Dowagiac landmarks and visuals, including the old library building, the mill pond, the historic train depot and Farr Park’s Dance of Creation statue.

These familiar visages were created by an equally familiar face — longtime Dowagiac resident and artist
O’Larry Collins.

For the past year, Collins has been working on the pieces, using his trademark wood-burning technique to adapt a series of old and current photographs into the handcrafted works of art. While no stranger to creating art based off the sights of the Grand Old City, many of the visuals featured in this new set of works were the first time Collins had recreated them through his artwork, he said.

“I prefer working with older subjects like this,” Collins said. “Because of their age, they have a lot of character.”

Collins was commissioned to create the pieces by City Manager Kevin Anderson, who had worked with the artist on other projects in the past. The two chose subjects that would showcase the beauty of the community, tying the city’s past to its present and future.

“Whether you live here or are just visiting, the pieces really speak to you,” said Bobbie Jo Hartline, a city employee who also worked with Collins. “While some residents may know all about the history of these subjects, even if it’s your first time seeing them they will still speak to you.”

Collins has created public artwork in the past as well, including a series of pieces on historic Cassopolis landmarks, such as the old library and courthouse, which are on display inside the Cass Family Clinic.

With his recently opened personal studio and clothing store, Art enah Suit, located just a short distance away from the Snow Building on Front Street, Collins is hoping the increased exposure will generate more interest in his work, he said.

“When you’re creating work for your hometown, your neighbors get a chance to see what you can do and what you have to say,” he said.