Coghlin Park Sculpture To Get $4,000 Renovation Work; Saugatuck Council Approves Funds
“The Family of Man” metal sculpture at City of Saugatuck’s picturesque Coghlin Park has become an iconic part of this resort community and city leaders want to make sure it’s kept that way when they approved more than $4,000 on Monday to give the artwork a reconditioning.
“It’s a cyclical piece meant to represent mother earth—we are born, we come out of earth and we eventually go back to earth,” said sculptress Cynthia McKean about her artwork purchased by a group who in turn donated it to the city in 2006.
McKean, a former council member herself in years past, was present at the meeting.
“It’s now in dire straits,” she said of the artwork that needs a refinish consisting of sanding, priming and paint recoding.
Part of the “Art Round Town,” a program that exhibited sculptures in public spaces, the red multi-piece sculpture has become a popular feature at the park.
Many visitors take their photographs with it and kids and adults alike can be seen walking around it and through it.
However, officials acknowledged the “Family of Man” has taught them a “lesson” they needed to learn, as the McKean artwork suffers from the same fate as many other sculptures around Saugatuck: the city doesn’t formally own them and there is no endowment to pay for their maintenance.
There is no documentation at this point indicating who is the official owner of “Family of Man,” as the group who donated it has disbanded and “Art Round Town” no longer exists and the city has no paperwork that speaks to its ownership.
This was a particular concern for council and at one point Saugatuck City Council Member Barry Johnson highlighted that thought in his vote against the refinishing cost.
“This is my favorite sculpture in town, but we technically don’t own it,” said Johnson. “I guess I am not willing to have the taxpayers pay for it and pay for its maintenance in perpetuity without an endowment,” he added, calling for a legal opinion on how to handle the situation before voting on the matter.
His colleagues had a different view.
“The city took it as a gift,” said Saugatuck City Council Member Bill Hess. “I think it’s ours and it’s ours to take care of.”
With the exception of Johnson, the council opted to pay for the refinishing and contract Holland-based Fleet Refinishing Works for the job, a work estimated to last five years.
“I am glad you saw the bigger picture: Saugatuck has a reputation of being an art community,” McKean told council.
“It would be great to have a mission statement and follow it up with what you will be doing in the future (about ownership and maintenance for all public sculptures).”