New sculpture at Bronson Children’s Hospital in Kalamazoo lets kids see themselves
The likenesses of real people were part of the inspiration for the latest public artwork by Kalamazoo sculptor Joshua Diedrich, located outside the Methodist Children’s Hospital in Bronson. “It gives legitimacy to the people,” Diedrich says when asked why he made the choice.
The artist, whose earliest memory holds a completed sculpture in his hand, is a classically trained figure sculptor. He recently created six life-size figures, including five children, a mother and her baby. All of them are loosely based on photographs submitted by hundreds of people, patients and families who have been helped in the hospital in one way or another. The mother and her baby were the only characters drawn entirely from their photographs.
The artwork was unveiled on Tuesday August 24 at the hospital’s east entrance at the corner of Vine and Jasper streets in Kalamazoo. The bright, clear day of late summer matched the mood of the crowd perfectly as Diedrich untied the cords around the dark purple upholstery and the fabric fell to reveal the intertwined greens and blues of the statues.
The artist’s face looked proud as he watched the reactions of family, friends, doctors and clients standing next to the artwork almost twice the size of many there. . This piece took Diedrich 18 months and he worked there primarily during the statewide shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with work on the artwork starting in February 2020.
Kalamazoo sculptor Joshua Diedrich unveils the work he created outside of Bronson Methodist Children’s Hospital.The public artwork was funded by the Bronson Health Foundation, primarily by the John Polzin family. Polzin was a leader of the Bronson Health Foundation and the sculpture was created to praise the “healing power of the kindness and humble generosity of Polzin in our community to support Bronson’s youngest patients” , which is engraved on the plate near the coin. .
Diedrich says that “every public artwork needs a champion,” someone who will make the emotional and physical effort to make the idea for the artwork blossom into a completed project. The Polzin family defended this work of art. The proposal for the piece was made shortly after Polzin’s death in May 2017, and after examining several different sculptors, Diedrich was taken into custody in April 2019.
After receiving the portraits submitted to Bronson for inspiration for the bronze figures, Diedrich decided he needed to stay true to his personal philosophy by creating a public sculpture. “Unless the room is designed as a portrait, I don’t want to be locked up by a person to sculpt their likeness…”
When it comes to a piece that “will be seen by thousands of people, there has to be some randomness in the selection process so that no one gets too much of the impression that the work is theirs – there is something about it. belongs to the one who sees it ”.
The mother and her baby were the only figures in the sculpture drawn entirely from their photographs. The only exceptions to this belief were mother and child. Each other figure combines the attributes of the many different faces and bodies depicted in the submitted photographs. Diedrich thought it important to include the Native American woman and her child in the piece in large part because he asked them to be included in the sculpture, not the other way around.
To learn more about the importance of public art, Second Wave spoke with Kalamazoo multimedia artist and Dream Scene Creative Placemaking and Mural Collaborative co-owner Anna Lee Roeder. She agrees that there is a need for public art to be accessible and accessible. Roeder says, “Public art is best when it’s accessible, when someone doesn’t need to walk into an institution to experience it.”
Deidrich and Roeder also touched on the need for the piece to be exciting in one way or another, and in the world we live in, public access to beautiful works of art is exciting in and of itself. . The sculpture Deidrich created using the lost wax casting method combined with touches from the Zbrush 3D printing program is a perfect example of how practices thousands of years old can be translated into something pleasant and exciting for the everyday man.
Roeder also explained how the public spaces of Kalamazoo have immense potential as completely open places for residents and passers-by to experience art and see themselves in art. Roeder’s core belief about public art “is that it creates conversation and activates public space.”
The move gives the new public sculpture outside the Bronson Methodist Children’s Hospital an excitement that makes these works accessible.As someone who was hospitalized in a hospital for several extended stays as a child, Diedrich agrees. “I hope that every child who enters the hospital can end up somewhere in the room,” he says. A hospital is generally seen as a place a lot of people would rather not hang out, and Roeder says the statue “gives a point of reflection” around a place that’s there for people who might have problems.
In the world we live in, where the arts are routinely slashed in communities and schools, public art is particularly important and important. People deserve to experience works of art without having to pay for it and without having to enter a space created for or by “others”.
Diedrich’s work occupies a special area of art because sculpture by nature is historically something made public to honor a person or event. While Diedrich and Roeder spoke with Second Wave, they talked about how public art brings people into their surroundings.
Bronson Children’s Hospital is a place that many people go to repeatedly, and one of the best things about artwork is that it leaves the door open, if you will. It could be the 20th time someone has walked by, and the artwork might remind them of something or spark a new thought, or the person might even notice a detail they hadn’t seen before. Diedrich’s artwork will bring people more fully into their surroundings so that they can more fully experience and enjoy the space they occupy.
Diedrich also participated in one of the more public art experiences as a regional representative for the Burning Man organization based in San Francisco, California. The 2021 Burning Man Festival took place in the Black Rock Desert, 120 miles north of Reno, Nevada. , and for the duration of the festival, the makeshift town becomes one of the most populous in the state.
This sculpture was created in memory of John Polzin for his commitment to the Bronson Methodist Children’s Hospital.Diedrich explained that the festival is built on 10 core principles, the first of which is radical inclusion. Participation is an important part of the Burning Man Festival, and the way the work is created and destroyed has changed Diedrich’s perspective. “Art has to be awesome in some way where people want to be a part of it,” says Diedrich.
When asked why public art is important to Kalamazoo in particular, Diedrich replied, “People don’t see themselves in these dusty old statues of white men and they want to see themselves.” It is important to consider what are the values of the company and what are the meanings of this space when creating the room.
On the front page of the Bronson Children’s Hospital website, it says, “They are only dedicated to caring for children …” which means every child.
Diedrich’s sculpture shows that with a lot of very hard work done in almost complete isolation due to the pandemic, and with huge community involvement early on, the result can be something incredibly beautiful and subjective. Diedrich’s sculpture, perhaps the most important, also shows the resilience of children.
Kalamazoo sculptor Joshua Diedrich combined old and new artistic techniques to create the sculpture outside of the Bronson Methodist Children’s Hospital.Every child who walks past Diedrich’s sculpture on their way to the hospital can see that they can come out laughing or holding on tight. They will see themselves and be drawn to the artwork and its surroundings in a way that was not possible before the installation of public art.
If you’d like to see the piece for yourself, it’s on display 24 hours a day, year-round outside the Bronson Children’s Hospital in the Vine neighborhood.