Stumps and Rumps
Is the transformation in front of the Black Elk Co-op on Baldwin a political statement?
by Anita LeBlanc
From the August, 2017 issue
Nine years ago, a chainsaw carver turned a large tree stump there into an enormous hand with its palm and open fingers tilting skyward. More recently, it lost its pinkie and ring fingers, turning it into a peace or victory gesture, depending on one's perspective.
Co-op members say the alteration wasn't their doing, nor do they believe its change is a message. However, they do have a theory about its metamorphosis.
"It was fall 2015 right before the Michigan State University football game, and so there were a lot of people in town and it was busy," explains Dominic Vetuschi, one of the residents. "And so, we assume what happened was that someone was messing around and sat on the fingers. When we woke up the next morning, the fingers were separated from the hand and just lying down on the ground in our yard. True story."
Vetuschi says that the missing fingers are still lying on their porch, and while there's been some discussion among the house residents about reattaching them, there isn't much interest.
Fortunately, a new stump-seating option appeared this spring. On Packard between Granger and Brooklyn, passersby can now rest their rear ends in a chair with newel-post arms. The rustic hospitality is the work of Beau Prenevost, who rents an apartment nearby. "I'd been looking at that boring stump from my bedroom upstairs for months," he says. "Then, I had the idea to change it into a chair."
As he carved the stump with a chainsaw, "people were slowing down their cars and staring," he says. "An elderly man pulled into the driveway and asked to take a picture of me with the chainsaw and the stump."
Though this is his first attempt at chainsaw sculpture, he's pleased with the result. "Kids squeal when they see it and climb all over it," he says. Many adults also settle in, and photos are frequently taken.
What does his landlord think about the alteration to the landscape? "I know he drives by here a couple times a day and hasn't said anything," says Prenevost. Since the stump is in the easement between the sidewalk and the street, the sculptor adds, "I don't think it's his land anyway."
[Originally published in August, 2017.]
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