(C. Proxmire, Dec. 23, 2012)
Rodney the Red Ram has lost a relative, as city officials in Charlevoix have removed the “Belier Rouge” sculpture from Water Tower Park near Pine River Channel after a councilperson and two others complained.
Charlevoix City Manager Rob Straebel did not return a request for comment about the sculpture’s removal, which took place about three weeks ago. However the curator of the multi-piece public art collection John Soave said that a city council member found the artwork offensive and that Straebel had him take it down.
“I asked him 3 times if he knew what he was doing and he assured me that he thought this through,” Sauve said. “I told him that this is censorship, and he didn’t think anyone would notice.”
The sculpture was part of an eight-sculpture collection that was installed in May 2012. It was scheduled to remain until fall 2013. The sculpture exhibit was sponsored by the Leo Guthman Fund, and did not cost taxpayers. The art works were approved by Council before being installed.
Jim VanDyke, a lover of the arts and a videographer from Detroit, contacted Straebel, and said he was also told there had been three complaints about the artwork, including one from an unnamed city councilperson.
VanDyke is upset about the Red Ram’s departure, stating in his Vimeo video “They’ve taken it upon themselves to determine what is and what isn’t socially acceptable as art…Although some feel the Red Ram is the sign of the apocalypse, the sign of Mephistopheles, the sign of the Devil, Beelzebub’s art, the end of mankind, the spawn of Satan, others feel it is simply just art… While it may not be the sign of the apocalypse, it could be a sign of censorship in Charlevoix.”
Sauve said he’s not sure if the ram will be replaced with another artwork or not.
“Belier Rouge” is not the only work of sculptor Sophie Marie’s to have a premature removal. In Garden City her red pig sculpture, dubbed “Willie the Pig” was stolen, and later recovered with its nose and three of its legs busted off. Prior to the theft Willie had been dressed up and captured in tourist-style photographs by residents and visitors alike.
Here in Ferndale, Marie’s work has received a more welcoming response. The Ferndale Downtown Development Authority, who organized the ARTWN collection, has embraced “Rodney the Red Ram” as a symbol of our artistic community. Rodney has been replicated in an ice sculpture for the Ice Festival, embellished with the PEZ logo, adorned with a holiday wreath, and embraced by a County Commissioner, a City Councilperson, and other Ferndale residents.
Cousins of the Red Rams and the Red Pig, two Red Bears, seem to be doing just fine in their home in front of the Marc Jacobs store in Boston, where residents also decorate them with hats.
Whether people agree on its aesthetics or not, public artwork helps boost a community’s attractiveness for business and it can create community dialogue. Read more about Ferndale’s public art at https://oaklandcounty115.com/2012/06/01/art-is-everywhere-in-artwn/.