This sculpture stands on Franklin Street. It is one of several sculptures greeting shoppers and fostering an appreciation for public art in the city. Staff photo by Doug Ross

Doug Ross, The Times
This sculpture stands on Franklin Street. It is one of several sculptures greeting shoppers and fostering an appreciation for public art in the city. Staff photo by Doug Ross Doug Ross, The Times
MICHIGAN CITY — In the 10 years since the Michigan City Public Art Committee has been formed, public art in the city has blossomed.

Shannon Eason, the art committee’s treasurer, recently briefed the City Council on the team’s efforts, including historic photos displayed in the council chambers. Added in December were a photo from Pullman Standard Railroad Car Co., donated by The Barker Mansion, and an Elston High School team. The Barker Mansion staff is trying to identify the Pullman Standard employee in that photo.

The city’s latest permanent sculpture, a tribute to African American suffragette Naomi Anderson, a Michigan City native, was installed recently at Westcott Park. Anderson’s efforts on behalf of women’s suffrage and civil rights were significant but mostly forgotten in recent decades.

There are 13 permanent sculptures on display in the city, including the tribute to Naomi Anderson, Eason said. But they aren’t the only public art on display.

Michigan City leases sculptures through SculptFusion. The idea is for tourists and residents to enjoy a variety of art before the lease is up and new entries arrive.

“This year we had 10 sculptures featured in our rotating exhibit,” Eason said. Among them are two sculptures by artist Ray Katz. “They’re both pretty tall, substantial, eye-catching sculptures.” Both are on display downtown.

A reception for Katz was held earlier this year.

This year, a leased sculpture of a bear family and a tree was donated to the city instead of being returned. That sculpture stands near the entrance to Washington Park Zoo.

The committee is focusing on getting Native American art to display in Michigan City.

A limestone turtle representing Mother Earth will be installed in front of City Hall, where an existing sculpture now stands. The existing sculpture will be relocated elsewhere.

The turtle will be placed on a slanted base so people driving by or walking past will be able to see the carvings on its back.

Eventually, the turtle sculpture will be relocated and a larger sculpture put there.

Councilman Paul Przybylinski, D-at large, is the council’s liaison to the Public Art Committee. “It is true that the Indian culture was very significant in this area, in this region,” he said. “It is part of our heritage and part of our culture. There’s a lot of people who have Indian blood in them.”

City Hall is on the Singing Sands Trail, originally an Indian trail between Detroit and Chicago, Eason said.

The city has a contract with Otocast for a walking or driving tour of the SculptFusion artworks. Visitors and residents can scan the QR code on the base of the sculpture or on window clings in various stores to Listen to the artists talk about the pieces they create.

Usage increased 139% between 2020 and 2021 as the pandemic drove people outside for recreation, Eason said.

She hopes the sculptures are driving people to downtown stores and restaurants while revitalizing the Uptown Arts District.

“Michigan City got on board really early for this, and it has been successful,” Eason said.

“Driving around the city, you can see all the sculptures up,” Przybylinski said. “Art is just another part of the city, like the parks and everything else.”
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