Southfield Public Arts Commission to hold dedication for new public art in Southfield September 17

September 6, 2019

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Library fountain

Reception will include special unveiling as well as Moby Dick sculpture dedication

The Southfield Public Arts Commission will host a reception to dedicate several newly placed sculptures as well as a special unveiling of a former Northland piece on Tuesday, September 17 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the Southfield Public Library, 26300 Evergreen Road.

The new sculptures being dedicated include a refurbished Moby Dick that was installed in the fountain of the Southfield Public Library; Arthur Kraft’s Peacock sculpture that now graces the Library circle drive; Sorel Etrog’s The Prophet that was installed in the Police Memorial Garden; and Andreas Drenters’ Pioneer Family II at Mary Thompson Farm, among others. The unveiling will showcase the restored miniature Mackinaw Bridge model that was on display in the only surviving outdoor plaza after the 1974 enclosure of Northland.  

All of the new sculptures being dedicated, with the exception of Pioneer Family II, originated from the former Northland Mall collection that was acquired by the City with the purchase of the shuttered mall. No tax dollars have been used for the art acquisitions, restoration and placement of the works.

Moby Dick, created by American sculptor Joseph Anthony McDonnell, was commissioned by the J.L. Hudson Company for Northland Mall in 1966. This 1,100-pound bronze sculpture and fountain graced a courtyard in the center of the mall until 2015 when the mall closed. The city of Southfield took possession of the 18-piece Northland art collection, including Moby Dick, in 2015. The collection was purchased for $500,000 through a city-arranged, low interest loan. The Mayor’s Office and the Southfield Public Arts Commission raised over $700,000 to repay the loan and has continued to raise additional funds to restore and place the art throughout Southfield.

More recently, a new initiative was launched to restore the fountain that is located on the front lawn of the Southfield Public Library which has not been operable for the past decade. In addition to fundraising for the restoration of the Northland art, funds were also raised to reconfigure and repair the fountain. Moby Dick now fittingly graces the fountain as a centerpiece that sprays water in a smaller, more manageable configuration with extensive new landscaping, lighting and walkways recently completed. Many corporate and individual donors made this project possible, including: Barton Malow, Guardian Alarm, Judith Sims, Janine Pixley, Southfield Parks & Garden Club, Mayor Kenson Siver, Belfor, Friedman Real Estate, United Jewish Foundation, Farbman Real Estate, Robert Johncox, Torch of Wisdom Foundation, Mike Shango, Miller Legacy Trust, and Forrest Page. The goal of this campaign was to raise $200,000 in addition to several in-kind donations. 

The dedication and reception is sponsored by the city of Southfield, Friends of Southfield Public Arts, Southfield Public Arts Commission, and the Southfield Public Library Board. Light refreshments will be served.

About the Northland Public Art Acquisition

The city of Southfield purchased the public art that was located at Northland Center for $500,000 in April 2015 as a loan from the City that has been recouped by the ‘Free the Bear’ fundraising campaign. Of this amount, $300,000 was provided by the Miller Legacy Trust Fund. The acquisition included the iconic The Boy and Bear sculpture by the late Marshall Fredericks that had been on display at Northland since the mall’s opening in 1954. Fredericks was one of six artists commissioned by J.L. Hudson to design the sculpture for Northland Center in Southfield, Michigan. At the time it opened in 1954, Northland was the country’s largest shopping center as well as the first regional shopping center. The Boy and Bear was installed in the vestibule of the Southfield Public Library in May of 2016 followed by the installation of the famed Walter Kraft Peacock in the front circle of the library in September of 2018. All of the other art acquired from Northland has been safely removed with plans to install the remaining pieces throughout the city.

About the Southfield Public Arts Commission

The Southfield Arts Commission was established in 2015 to advise the City Council on matters affecting public art in the city. The goal of this commission is to create a stimulating environment that reflects and enhances the City's heritage, diversity, and character through public artworks integrated in the architecture, infrastructure, and landscape.

About Friends of the Southfield Public Arts

Friends of Southfield Public Arts is a recognized tax exempt 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that works with the Southfield Arts Commission and the city of Southfield to maintain, strengthen and increase public art throughout Southfield.

For more information or to make a donation, call the Mayor’s Office at (248) 796-5100.