The Canoe Art Project
From stream to canvas
by Jan Schlain
Locked like a bicycle against the back fence at the Argo Livery is half of an aluminum canoe--bow up, severed middle down, painted cheerfully inside and out. It's a sign of things to come for the livery's retired watercraft.
The canoes are pretty durable--"some are thirty-some years old," says assistant facility supervisor Joe Wilhelme--but in May, the Ann Arbor liveries retired five, along with twenty-four kayaks. That's about average for a year, says Wilhelme's boss, Cheryl Saam.
Most of this year's retirees were sold at auction, but next year they'll be recycled into public art: "We call it 'Canoe Imagine Art,'" says Saam. A committee of local art and river lovers hopes to inspire professional artists from around Michigan to transform the hulls into beautiful works of art--that, in turn, will excite tourists, celebrate rivers, and raise money for nonprofits.
Former Ann Arbor Art Center president Marsha Chamberlin says the committee is currently in the process of creating a logo, raising funds, and applying for grants. They hope to see the art-canoes installed along Main Street after the 2014 art fair, where they'll remain on display through the end of November.
Chamberlin imagines a multitude of ways artists can transform the canoes. "It could be tall and thin," she says. "I had this notion of cutting it in half and making a skirt on a figure." And she's not limiting her vision to the visual arts. "Maybe the Ann Arbor Symphony could put on Handel's 'Water Music,'" she says.
[Originally published in June, 2013.]