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Sculpture causes stir, goes to new location in Adrian

Some say object is sexual, not right for downtown site

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    Ken Thompson, owner of Midwest Sculpture Initiative, removes a protective panel of wood after relocating ‘Blue Human Condition,’ a large ceramic sculpture, from city hall to Yew Park in Adrian.

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Ken Thompson, owner of Midwest Sculpture Initiative, removes a protective panel of wood after relocating ‘Blue Human Condition,’ a large ceramic sculpture, from city hall to Yew Park in Adrian.

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ADRIAN — A bunch of blue-hued bodies that caused a ballyhoo moved to a new abode Tuesday.

Installed near city offices in downtown Adrian last week, the Blue Human Condition sculpture sparked controversy almost immediately. Too sexual in nature, some alleged. Move it away from city hall, others said.

PHOTO GALLERY: Sculpture moved

The sculpture depicts seven humanlike and gender-neutral figures in various positions. At least one position caused some residents to claim that the figures were strategically situated in a sexual sort of way.

Mark Chatterley, an artist near Lansing, designed the sculpture to show how people rely and lean on each other, said Shane Horn, Adrian’s city administrator.

As controversy swirled in the Lenawee County seat, 35 miles northwest of Toledo, a tarp was tied into place to hide the figures, which spurred the other side to complain about censorship. Leave it alone, they said. It’s art, they said.

On Sunday, after someone sliced apart ropes, Mr. Horn took away the tarp so it wouldn’t wind up in the street.

Then on Tuesday, as a result of numerous discussions and correspondence sent to the city, the sculpture was shifted to Yew Park on Winter Street.

“I want to personally thank the many people in the community who provided input to city hall. Public input supports government transparency and improves decision-making. I recognize there are likely to be people on both sides of the issue who are not satisfied, but I believe this decision provides an appropriate resolution,” Mr. Horn wrote in a message to residents on Adrian’s Web site.

The new site was chosen because it allows Blue Human Condition to remain accessible to any citizen who makes the choice to visit the park, he said.

Chris Miller, coordinator of the Adrian Downtown Development Authority and Department of Community Development, said the selection of the sculpture was made by a committee comprising a community cross-section.


Alan Knaggs, left, and Ian Thompson, guide a forklift owned by H.L. Green Machine Moving as they move the statue from city hall to Yew Park in Adrian. The statue is one of seven going on display for a year in Adrian as part of the Midwest Sculpture Initiative, an organization that brings art to 13 municipalities around Michigan. This is the third year Adrian has participated, and local officials chose the pieces to be displayed throughout the community. After an individual complained about the perceived sexual of this specific sculpture, entitled, "Blue Human Condition" it was moved from display near City Hall to the park, which is several blocks away.


Mr. Miller, the committee’s organizer, said no objections arose about the sculpture during a selection process that winnowed 600 options to the seven selected for exhibit as part of Adrian Art Discovery, now in its third year.

Reaction that surfaced was “kind of a surprise to the committee,” Mr. Miller said, adding there was no committee discussion about “this being a PG-13 sort of thing.”

The sculptor could not be reached for comment.

The Rev. Rick Strawcutter, who posted an online video about the situation, said Adrian “is a city uniquely blessed with 20 various sized parks” for which he is very grateful, noting how well the city keeps its parks.

He said he is not opposed to art or to the artist’s type of art, even this particular sculpture, but suggested that Blue Human Condition should be placed elsewhere.

“Anywhere would be better than in-your-face right downtown,” Mr. Strawcutter said. “The concern we have is the exposure to our children and grandchildren. This particular art form is best left to art fairs and art museums,” places where if you want to see art, you go there and look at it, he said.

Typical reaction, he said, was that the sculpture is “something sexual” and should be relocated.

Contact Janet Romaker at: or 419-724-6006.

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