Fish to dance for joy in Rogue River

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL

One of the most popular entrants in last year’s 2009 ArtPrize competition in Grand Rapids was “Nessie,” who finished in sixth place in the inaugural event. Kids, in particular, loved “Nessie” as she regally floated in the Grand River while tethered to the Blue Pedestrian Bridge in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids.

Steve Anderson’s son, Chad, no small man himself, stands beneath the centerpiece steelhead of the “Water Dance” sculpture he helped his dad create. Photo by CLIFF HILL

Rockford believes they can do Grand Rapids one better. Rockford City Manager Michael Young announced at the April City Council meeting that “Water Dance” had been completed by its creators and is almost ready to be installed above the water and in front of the concrete wall between the two wings of Rockford’s iconic Rogue River Dam. This could only happen in the biggest little city in Michigan!

Readers may remember the Squire’s exclusive front-page coverage of “Water Dance” in the Dec. 3, 2009 edition (visit www.rockfordsquire.com to read the entire story). The imaginative and genius mind of Steve Anderson of Anderson’s Metal Sculpture in the CedarRock area was then in the midst of creating a stunning and breathtaking stainless steel sculpture of three leaping fish—not just any fish, but three fish synonymous with the Rogue River: a brown trout, a steelhead, and a rainbow trout.

Anderson’s Metal Sculpture had been commissioned by the City of Rockford to create “Water Dance.” Costs associated, less labor, were underwritten by the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the Rockford Area Arts Commission. For his part, Anderson was gifting labor costs to the City he and his family have come to love.

Last week we paid a return visit to Anderson’s studio, tucked away in the woods between Rockford and Cedar Springs, for an exclusive look at what for Anderson was a work of love. It is both beautiful and stunning and, when placed in front of the dam in the Rogue River, will encompass an area 25 feet wide by 9 feet high. The fish, of the three-dimensional sculpture, are awesomely grand in size.

Coincidentally, “Nessie” was recently reported to be lurking in the waters of Rockford’s Rum Creek millpond. But those rumors turned out to be a great April Fools joke. “Nessie,” in reality, is currently suffering a slow deterioration in a temporary home on the waters of the pond at the entrance to John Ball Park Zoo. In contrast, “Water Dance” was designed and constructed to withstand the test of time. “It will grace the Rockford Dam for generations to come,” said Anderson.

So in late May or early June, keep your eyes peeled on the Rockford Dam as the crew from Anderson’s, along with the skillful assistance of Rockford’s Public Service Department, installs “Water Dance.”

The completed sculpture will be supported and anchored to the dam’s foundation and tethered to the concrete wall in the center of the dam’s two wings for added stability.

It might be a good idea to have a camera handy, as every drawing, every postcard, and every photograph previously taken of the Rockford landmark will be henceforth outdated.

“Water Dance” will be dedicated immediately following the annual Start of Summer (SOS) Parade on Saturday, June 12.

“The four-day SOS weekend and dedication of ‘Water Dance’ will kick off summer through fall festivities celebrating the City of Rockford’s 75th anniversary,” said Young. Details on these festivities will be found in future editions of The Rockford Squire.

Plan on attending the “Water Dance” dedication ceremony on June 12 and be a part of history in the making.

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