Muskegon City Public Art Initiative: PORTAL

November 7, 2023

MUSKEGON, MI –The Muskegon City Public Art Initiative (MCPAI) announced today it is planning and developing its eighth project, this one destined to overlook the City of Muskegon’ Shoreline Drive.
MCPAI was established in July of 2018 to develop and oversee the commission of 10 monumental works of public art; the MCPAI is a project of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County.

The PORTAL is being created by Muskegon artist Lee S. Brown. It will be a 45-foot circle of Corten steel, lit on the inner band from dusk to dawn, and installed in the beautiful and soft rolling hills between Shoreline Drive and the Shoreline Inn. Installation is planned for September 2024.

The City of Muskegon is also exploring the possibility of expanding the bike/pedestrian pathway to include a hard-surface trail up to and through the sculpture. In addition, Michigan’s Edge Adventure Bike Association is investigating the feasibility of developing an urban bike park in that area.

According to Brown, his inspiration for this work is the people of Muskegon who have always had BIG dreams and aspirations as can be seen not only in its history but also in the resurgence of its beloved city in the last 15 years. It is the energy and grit of Muskegon citizens that is spurring this new and exciting growth, he said. Without a doubt, the PORTAL will be a spectacular monument to and for the city that represents community strength, resiliency, and unity, Brown said.

This sculpture also pays homage to Muskegon’s industrial heritage. In 1911, a new company – Sealed Power – was established in Muskegon-by-Muskegon people to build piston rings for Continental Motors, also of Muskegon. The companies served the emerging 20th Century automobile industry that was taking hold in Michigan and beyond. Soon after their beginnings, the efforts gearing up for World War I also played into their early success. Sealed Power developed into one of Muskegon’s most iconic industrial companies, and its only Fortune 500 company, employing over 1,500 workers at its peak and producing literally millions of piston rings annually. Eventually Sealed Power changed its name to SPX.

Although SPX moved to Charlotte, N.C. in the late 1990s, its impact and legacy in Muskegon runs deep to this day. The MCPAI is the brainchild of Patrick O’Leary, the chairman of the SPX Board of Directors in Charlotte, who lived in Muskegon for five years. O’Leary has contributed the first $25,000 for each of the 10 MCPAI-planned public art projects. The PORTAL will be located on property in front of the former SPX headquarters and near the company’s first plant.

The PORTAL also represents the circle, emblematic since ancient times and representing powerful symbols such as the sun, unity, strength, and unbroken love. MCPAI sees the PORTAL easily becoming a destination for those entering marriage, renewing friendships, or making positive resolutions.

This eighth public installation is strongly supported by the City of Muskegon, Greater Muskegon Economic Development, the Community Foundation for Muskegon County, the Downtown Arts Committee, the MuskegonCity Public Art Initiative, the Muskegon Museum of Art, the Howmet Aerospace Foundation, and a dedicated and generous cadre of individuals and businesses who support the public art projects.

Fundraising for the PORTAL began in September. This sculpture will be the largest commissioned to date by MCPAI and the costliest thus far. The budget for this project is $316,272. To date, MCPAI has raised $233,080 in cash gifts and pledges, or 74 percent of the goal with $82,200 remaining.

Gifts to the PORTAL Sculpture Fund may be sent to the Community Foundation for Muskegon County, 425 W. Western Ave., Muskegon MI 49440. Gifts of $1,000 or more will be recognized on signage at the site.

Judith Hayner, Project Director
Muskegon City Public Art Initiative
[email protected]