MAILBAG: Is gull fountain by someone famous?

Mark Brooky • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:48 AM


The statue was indeed created by somebody famous.

Marshall Fredericks was a remarkable artist who worked out of his studio in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak from 1945 until his death in 1998. He created the aluminum seagull sculpture in the late 1950s. It was installed in Grand Haven in 1969, two years after the library and Community Center were built, according to a Smithsonian Institution collections document.

His other creations you might know are "The Spirit of Detroit" (1958) at the entrance to the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in Detroit; "Christ on the Cross" (1959) in Indian River, a little south of Mackinaw City; and the "Friendly Dragon" at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park and "Victory Eagle" at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, both in Grand Rapids. He created more than 400 other pieces in Michigan's public and corporate collections, according to an article by Nancy Sajdak Manning in the March/April issue of "Michigan History" magazine.

According to Sajdak Manning, the Grand Haven sculpture is titled "Flying Gulls Fountain."

John Martin, director of Loutit District Library, said the Marshall Fredericks Sculpture Museum at Saginaw Valley State University published the first book dedicated solely to the renowned sculptor's life and works, "Marshall M. Fredericks, Sculptor," in 2003. He said Grand Haven's "Flying Gulls Fountain" is featured on page 167.

"This book, available at both the Loutit and Spring Lake district libraries, is an excellent source of information on Mr. Fredericks," Martin noted. "... The model for the fountain sculpture is featured at the SVSU Museum and a shot of it, along with many other works, is featured on page 179."

A Saginaw Valley State University website, omeka.svsu.edu, includes this description of a plaster version of the sculpture: "This delicately balanced sculpture is evidence of Fredericks' expertise in design and structural engineering. The openness and verticality of the composition are very dramatic. The large gulls appear weightless, held in place only by a wing tip, giving the illusion of flight and movement. Fredericks reinforced the elegance of the composition with the smooth surfaces of the gulls' bodies and wings, only slightly suggesting feathers and other details.

"To complete this airy construction, Fredericks utilized lightweight aluminum to cast the gulls for a fountain at the Civic Center and Loutit District Library Plaza in Grand Haven, Mich."

Martin reminds us that Loutit District Library patrons can enjoy views of the sculpture from a comfortable chair, sitting by the fireplace or in the library's newspaper and magazine area, located opposite the Community Center.

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