by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL
The greater Rockford community is blessed with a multitude of accomplished artisans, many of whom participated in this year’s ArtPrize competition. Local artist Steve Anderson of Anderson’s Metal Sculpture may have contemplated entering the prestigious competition but found himself engrossed in the creative design and layout of his—to date—largest undertaking.
From his home/studio tucked away in the woods between Rockford and Cedar Springs, Anderson along with two of his sons, Troy and Chad, is in the midst of completing a prodigious work of art that will forever enhance the iconic Rockford Rogue River Dam.
Anderson’s Metal Sculpture has been designing and creating original metal sculpture works of art since 1975. As opposed to cast bronze sculptures, Anderson’s has carved a niche for itself, working with copper, brass and most recently stainless steel plate.
“Our varieties of sculptures range from small garden sculptures to large three-dimensional pieces that bring life and texture to the inside or outside of one’s home or business,” said Anderson.
Locally, Anderson’s talent is on permanent display in front of North Rockford Middle School (NRMS) and also in front of the Cedar Springs High School Red Hawk Stadium. The large-scale renditions of the Rockford Fighting Ram and the Cedar Springs’ Tom Brown Fire Hawk are but two prime examples of many gifted creations.
The Rockford Dam sculpture, yet to be completed, will be a three-dimensional sculpture of three fish leaping in and out of swirls of water and mist. Working with heavy gauge stainless steel plate over stainless steel frames, Anderson is creating three fish synonymous with the Rogue River. Most fittingly, the piece will be titled “Waterdance.”
Incorporating a rainbow trout, a steelhead and a brown trout, the finished piece will be grand in size and scope and will measure approximately 12 by 18 feet. Each fish, itself, will be considerably larger than life-size. The rainbow trout will be some eight feet long with a girth of five feet, the steelhead approximately 10 feet long with a girth of six feet, and the brown trout about 7.5 feet long with a girth of five feet. The gleaming stainless steel fish will be individually textured to be life-like in detail.
The large size of the finished piece and its individual fish is necessary because of the venue on which it is to be placed, the face of Rockford’s Rogue River Dam!
The sculpture will be attached to the wall in the center of the dam’s two wings. Its weight will be supported by the dam’s deep foundation. The sculpture’s large size is necessary so it will be proportional to the even larger size of the dam itself. Your reporters have seen an artist’s rendition of its placement. It appears to us as though the fish are leaping in pure joy or, perhaps, seeking a fish ladder to scale in search of the perfect spawning grounds upstream. It will be truly breathtaking!
Rockford City Manager Michael Young was introduced to and “struck” by Anderson’s Metal Sculpture displays during Rockford’s 2008 Art in the Park. Young said, “The Rockford Area Arts Commission and I had been thinking about city enhancement projects, particularly works of art that might be placed on permanent display in the City’s beautiful and extensive park system.”
Subsequently, Young arranged a meeting with Anderson. They discussed the importance of the Rogue River to Rockford, and in particular its sports fishery.
“I had the idea of three fish,” added Young, “and Steve took it and ran with it.”
The $12,000 material cost of the project is being underwritten by a 50/50 joint venture of the Downtown Development Authority and the Rockford Area Arts Commission.
For his part, Anderson tells us his costs of labor, design, layout, construction and installation of the sculpture are Anderson’s Metal Sculpture’s gift to the community.
“The Rockford Dam means so much to everyone. This sculpture will last many lifetimes. On this venue, adjacent to the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail, it will be viewed and photographed by countless thousands of visitors to Rockford. This is my passion. It must be the best it can possibly be. After all, it will have my name on it.”
Young hopes to have the sculpture installed for an unveiling and dedication ceremony to coincide with Rockford’s 2010 Start of Summer Celebration.
Lest we forget, Anderson’s Metal Sculpture is a family business. Steve and wife Janell are proud of sons Troy, Cory and Chad, who are all graduates of Cedar Springs High School and have all played a part in the success of the business. Troy is a NRMS sixth-grade teacher, Cory has moved on to a career in law enforcement in Florida, and Chad remains his dad’s right-hand man.
Squire readers can view other works by Anderson and witness first-hand the progress of the Rockford Dam fish sculpture by going online to www.andersonsmetalsculpture.com.