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Published: 4/27/2005

Blissfield: Sculptures stretch along U.S. 223

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Three dozen huge sculptures line a half-mile stretch of U.S. 223 just south of Blissfield.
Three dozen huge sculptures line a half-mile stretch of U.S. 223 just south of Blissfield.
SIMMONS / BLADE Enlarge

BLISSFIELD - As a general rule, "public art" in places as rural as areas of Lenawee County is still a rare enough sight that it knocks some people out of their normal driving daze.

Which is exactly what Ken Thompson was hoping for last fall when he convinced 27 other sculptors to join him in putting more than three dozen huge sculptures along a half-mile stretch of U.S. 223 just south of Blissfield.

When he did it, Mr. Thompson said he wasn't sure what kind of reaction he'd get from the impressively varied display. But he said he's been pleasantly surprised.

"It's gotten quite a lot of attention," said Mr. Thompson, organizer of the show and owner of the nearby Flatlanders Sculpture Supply and Art Galleries.

"There's even been some sales generated because of the work out there, which is always a good thing for artists."

The Blissfield Corridor, as the exhibit is called, is an effort by Mr. Thompson and other local arts supporters who formed the Midwest Sculpture Initiative last year to promote sculpture done by regional artists and to improve the quality of life across the region.

Artists whose work are exhibited include Jim Havens, Norma Penchansky-Glasser, Calvin Babich, Nathan Longsdorf, David Deming, Megan Merrell, Tom Lingeman, and Cynthia McKean.

Each of their pieces - which range in scope and shape from the recognizable to the abstract and in cost from $800 to $40,000 - are about 30 feet off the busy roadway and are illuminated at night.

And along one of Lenawee County's busiest roadways, they are seen by those in the estimated 16,000 vehicles that pass by each day. The exhibit is located near U.S. 223 and Riga Highway.

While some of those travelers are immediately drawn to the exhibit - Mr. Thompson said he delivered one of the pieces in the show last week to a couple from Ottawa Hills who had just driven by - others aren't so sure what to make of the display.

"Let's put it this way: I don't see anything that I would put in my yard," said Ken Kruzynski, of Temperance, a service writer at nearby Knapp Motors who has passed the exhibit at least twice a day for the last six months.

"I do look at them every day - you can't miss them - but I don't understand most of them. I just don't know what some of them are supposed to be."

Mr. Thompson confirmed the interest, from both art lovers and art amateurs alike.

"It's not uncommon to be outside and see people slowing way down to get a better look," the Adrian native and current president of Toledo Federation of Arts Societies said.

The Blissfield Corridor will remain on display through October, Mr. Thompson said. All during the show, the artists will compete for a $500 prize in a "fan favorite" contest.

Voting will occur both on-site and online at the Midwest Sculpture Initiative's Web site (www.msisculpture.com), which has pictures, artist statements, and a map enumerating each piece.



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