Sculptures on loan still hanging around

Seven pieces of outdoor street art arrived in Sarnia’s in 2010, sparking an outburst of praise and derision from would-be art critics.

The sculptures were part of a two-year loan from the Sauve Art Foundation of Michigan. But that was almost four years ago, and they’re still present in our downtown.

So what’s up what that?

“We’re just sort of waiting to co-ordinate the return of them, explained Ian Smith, Sarnia’s parks and recreation director.

“I’m surprised, but nobody is even commenting on them … they’ve just become part of the street.”

The sculptures arrived in July of 2010 after Sarnia partnered with Port Huron on 16 pieces, collectively called the Bluewater International Sculpture Exhibit.

The non-profit Sauve Foundation of Royal Oak, Michigan, which sponsors public exhibits, film festivals and other performances, hasn’t asked for them back.

Though one sculpture outside Sarnia’s city hall was retrieved by its owner for another exhibition, the rest have endured, surviving posters, graffiti, a theft, hats, stickers and online photoshopping.

Though the city put up $7,000 as a damage deposit for the loan, “we haven’t paid a nickel,” Smith said.

“One was stolen and police did get involved, but we recovered it and put it back.”

The sculptures in Port Huron were purchased by patrons and remain public art.

Perhaps the most noted is the so-called “orange guy” at Lochiel and Christina streets, shaped like a man bending over.

“Some people say he looks like he’s vomiting,” said Greg Lavolette, owner of Greens Organic Café and Market, whose window overlooks the work.

“I’m not impressed, really. It’s just a piece of cut metal.”

So is Sarnia keeping the artwork?

“I don’t want to say forever,” Smith said. “But in the short term they’re going to be part of our streetscape program.”

– George Mathewson20140305_0050_1