Berrien County Commissioners honor late sculptor Richard Hunt

Published 11:25 am Friday, April 5, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

ST. JOSEPH — Famed sculptor Richard Hunt, whose work graces the Niles riverfront, was honored Thursday by the Berrien County Board of Commissioners.

Commissioners approved an honorary resolution recognizing the late sculptor at their meeting Thursday morning. Hunt died Dec. 16, 2023 at the age of 88. His legacy here in Berrien County will be remembered at a public ceremony for the opening of the Richard Hunt Center in Benton Harbor Saturday from 4:30-7 p.m.

County Commissioner Mamie Yarbrough read the resolution into the record prior to the county board’s vote. She noted that the Richard Hunt Center in the Benton Harbor Arts District was home to Hunt’s 26,000 square foot studio which he gifted to the community last spring. The center is expected to be home to classes and exhibits in the future.

The first of Hunt’s sculptures in Berrien County was placed in Niles along the riverfront in 1974. “Hybrid Form #2” was rededicated a few years ago when it was moved to its current location at Front and Main Streets.

A number of other Hunt pieces can be found at Sliver Beach County Park, Lakeland Medical Center and the Krasl Art Center, all in St. Joseph. Considered one of the premier metal sculptors of his time, his works can be found throughout the United States and around the world.

The resolution states that “Richard Hunt is represented in more than 100 public museums across the globe and rightfully deserves to be identified as one of the nation’s greatest artists.”

As noted in the resolution, Hunt was an early supporter of the arts in Benton Harbor. “When asked why Benton Harbor, he was quoted as saying, ‘There is every reason to come to Benton Harbor-it’s a land of opportunities.”

The resolution concludes by designating April 24 as Richard Hunt Day in alignment with similar efforts in Illinois where Hunt was born and resided for many years. People are encouraged to surround themselves in the arts in honor of Hunt on that day.

Berrien County Commissioners also received a legislative update on what’s going on in Lansing at their meeting Thursday. Consultant Mike Krombeen reported that action could come this year on regulating short term rentals in Michigan communities.

The short term rental issue has been a controversial one in recent years with most efforts to find a legislative solution falling short. Both the county and local municipalities have taken exception to past efforts that they saw as taking away local control.

Krombeen said new short term rental legislation is coming up later this month with hearings scheduled next week on a proposal from State Rep. Joey Andrews and others. Andrews represents the newly created shoreline district that runs from New Buffalo to Saugatuck.

Krombeen said this proposal is much different than one floated last year that was supported by realtor groups and would have eroded local zoning controls. He said the new proposal doesn’t allow local governments to ban short term rentals but does protects local zoning in regulating where short term rental properties can be,

The proposal will also create a statewide data base where platforms such as Air BNB will be licensed by the state and in turn provide data to the state, he said. In addition, local municipalities can impose an additional six percent tax on short term rentals with those funds either staying with the local government or being shared with tourist related organizations.

Local governments will soon have more power to lower speed limits in their municipalities after a new law was passed by the legislature and signed by the governor. Local governments would still have to have speed studies conducted and give justification for lowering speed limits.

Krombeen also gave updates on a number of other items such as state finances, the recent awarding of low interest loans to restart the Palisades nuclear plant in Van Buren County and the expansion of the state’s Medicaid waiver. The last item would allow jail inmates to enroll in Medicaid before their release and could save the county money.