Shore birds

Come warmer weather, flocks of shore birds should begin cropping up in prominent spaces all around Alpena. But instead of the live flying variety, the birds will be wooden cutouts turned into whimsical works of art.

Ever enthusiastic in their support and encouragement of the arts scene in Northeast Michigan, members of the Thunder Bay Arts Council are inviting the public to participate in this community-wide art project. They hope the project provides both local residents and visitors to the area with another opportunity to appreciate all the creativity found here.

“This has been in the works for several years,” said TBAC member Midge Connon. “Our main purpose is to get people working together in a fun way. We want everybody to enjoy the arts.”

How it works is that TBAC teamed up with a woodworking class at Alpena High School taught by instructor Zach Grulke. His students cut out about 80 wooden bird silhouettes in three different patterns and attached them to stakes.

The public now is invited to stop by the Art Council office at 127 W. Chisholm Street, take home one of the double-sided birds, “beautify” it however they want and then return the completed bird to TBAC by May 17 for placement throughout the town.

“We’re just trying to get people to have fun,” Connon said. “You don’t have to be artistic to do this.”

Among those planning to decorate a shore bird is TBAC member Cindy O’Connor, who doesn’t consider herself artistic but who has come up with what she thinks is a doable concept.

“I’m going to use popcycle sticks,” said O’Connor. “You can get them in every color of the rainbow. My plan is to put them on so that they look like feathers.”

Another willing participant is Corky Gates, who Connon said plans to dress her shore bird up with beach stones. Well-known wildlife artist Chris Wozniak has committed to painting a bird too, she said.

The 21 artists currently exhibiting at the TBAC Gallery also are being asked to consider lending their artistic talents to the project by creating their own unique bird. While most of the finished birds will be on public exhibit throughout the summer, several will be held back and auctioned off as a fundraiser during the Michigan Brown Trout Festival.

Connon, O’Connor, Clint Kendziorski and Sue Kaiser are the four TBAC members currently serving on the Community Art Project Committee that developed the project, which takes its cue from TBAC’s official logo that features shore birds. According to Connon, the team has ideas for other community-wide art projects in future years.

Kendziorski said he hopes a number of area businesses will be inspired to decorate a bird that reflects an aspect of their own business. An important element to remember, he also said, is that the finished product will need to be weather resistant.

All those who take one of the birds home will be asked for a $10 deposit, Connon said. Those who later return their decorated bird to the Arts Council will receive a full refund of their deposit. Participants also have the option of displaying their birds at their own home, but they would not be eligible then for the $10 refund.

To pick up a wooden cutout, stop by the TBAC office during office hours only, Tuesday through Thursday from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. For more information about the project, call 356-6678.