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Title: A collision of views as Bath Township calls artist's work 'junk,' heads to court
Source: Detroit Free Press
URL Source: https://www.freep.com/story/opinion ... -junk-bath-township/763060002/
Published: Jul 6, 2018
Author: Judy Putnam
Post Date: 2018-07-16 06:51:51 by Deckard
Keywords: None
Views: 131
Comments: 5

BATH TWP. – To artist Robert Park, his 1,000-foot-long outdoor installation called The Blue Loop is a creative outlet on his private property.

To Bath Township officials, it’s just thousands of pieces of junk.

Among the numerous objects are plastic coffee cans, pieces of children’s outdoor toys, watering cans, signs, bungee cords, cups, a rubber glove and a plastic duck — all in shades of blue — comprising the installation along a wooded pathway. Some of the objects are secured to trees or wires strung between trees. Some just sit on the ground.

The Blue Loop is delightful and quirky. I've visited Tyree Guyton's Heidelberg Project in Detroit and this has some similar themes. Like Heidelberg, it could be the work of a genius that's great to visit. I also had to put on my hat as a homeowner and wondered how much I would love either one next door to me day after day.

Part of The Blue Loop installation in the wooded lot on Bath artist Robert Park's property, Thursday, July 5, 2018. Park has been told by the township to clean up the "junk," which he views as an art installation. He has a bachelor's in fine arts from Michigan State University. He also earned his teaching certificate there. He had a solo show at MSU in the fall of 2017. (Photo: Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal)

The issue is headed to Clinton County District Court for a July 16 hearing after Park declined to remove his installation. He was cited in May for violating a junk ordinance. He didn’t comply with a June 7 order to remove it.

Civil rights issue

If the township prevails, it will remove the work, and make Park pay the cost of tearing it down. He also faces a $250 fine.

That doesn’t sit well with the 72-year-old artist, who holds a bachelor’s in fine arts from Michigan State University.

Part of The Blue Loop installation in the wooded lot on Bath artist Robert Park's property, Thursday, July 5, 2018. Park has been told by the township to clean up the "junk," which he views as an art installation. He has a bachelor's in fine arts from Michigan State University. He also earned his teaching certificate there. He had a solo show at MSU in the fall of 2017. (Photo: Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal)

“It’s a civil rights struggle,” he said. "That’s my form of speech in a way so it infringes on civil rights in that respect.”

He said his work explores the soothing color of blue.

“This is a very mild-mannered kind of thing. There’s nothing offensive about it,” he said.

Supervisor Jack Phillips said based on complaints, a now-retired compliance officer determined the display violated the township’s junk ordinance.

He said he’s spoken with Park a few times.

“You call it art. Your neighbors call it an eyesore. Now a judge is going to make that determination,” he said he told him.

Hidden from view for now

I drove to his house Thursday to see The Blue Loop. I was expecting to see something visible from the road that might meet the criterion of an eyesore.

I didn’t. To see the loop, you have to get on Park’s wooded property, directly across Park Lake Road from Bath Township’s Park Lake Beach. I also realize that's going to be a different story in the winter months when the leaves are gone.

The Blue Loop is tucked away on his 1 ½-acre heavily wooded lot. It is a quirky spot. He has a house where he’s lived for nearly 40 years plus two outbuildings he uses as studios. The buildings are adorned with words and objects. There’s a lot of undergrowth on the property.

It contrasts sharply with nearby condos with neatly manicured lawns that were erected a dozen years ago west of his property. 

Bath artist Robert Park heads into one of his studios where he creates art, Thursday, July 5, 2018. Park has been told by the township to clean up the "junk" in his yard, which he views as an art installation. Park has a bachelor's in fine arts from Michigan State University. He also earned his teaching certificate there. He had a solo show at MSU in the fall of 2017. (Photo: Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal)

Marvin Fouty, owner of Hilltop Condominiums, said he and others complained to the township this spring but noticed that Park had cleaned up items near the front of his property after the complaint. He said he was surprised the township was still pursuing the issue. Fouty described Park as a friend and a talented artist.

"The only time I would object if it’s really an eyesore and is affecting us, and I don’t think it is any more," he said. 

Konny Zsigo, who owns the Park Lake Creamery just east of the beach, said he hasn’t heard anything about Park's display and didn’t even know about the controversy.

It’s not the first time Park has tangled with the township. He had a 2006 complaint for a 5-foot-high mound of materials covered in orange fencing. He called it art but officials said it was trash. Eventually, he said the township dropped the issue.

He also sought the ACLU’s help when he had an elect Obama sign that violated sign limit sizes in 2008.

Part of The Blue Loop installation in the wooded lot on Bath artist Robert Park's property, Thursday, July 5, 2018. Park has been told by the township to clean up the "junk," which he views as an art installation. He has a bachelor's degree in fine arts from Michigan State University. He also earned his teaching certificate there. He had a solo show at MSU in the fall of 2017. (Photo: Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal)

This time, though, he’s been unable to get help to fight the complaint and doesn't have an attorney. He’s hoping a lawyer will volunteer to help him.

His work has been displayed in galleries locally and even internationally. He had a one-man show last fall curated by MSU. Park doesn’t actively market his work but said he has sold about 20 pieces, priced around $3,000 each, over the years. Instead, he’s supported himself as a house painter and substitute teacher.

'Serious artist'

Park is a familiar name to those in the local art world. In the past he’s created abstract art in acrylic paint but now creates large mixed-media work on canvas using paint, collage and text as well as some three-dimensional work.

“He’s a little bit off the grid and his artwork is a reflection of that. Is he a serious artist? Absolutely,” said Tim Lane, the former curator for (SCENE) Metrospace from 2008 to 2015. Lane works for the city of East Lansing, helping run the East Lansing Art Festival.

Lane hasn’t seen The Blue Loop but said: “As an artist myself, it makes me cringe a little to think that someone could prohibit you from creating your art on your property.”

Park said he's been working on the project for two years and views it as unfinished. People give him items, he finds some free objects and buys others at MSU's Surplus Store.

If he wins his case, he plans to keep adding to the loop to make it denser. Eventually, he might invite people on his property to see it to decide for themselves: Is it junk or is it art?

Judy Putnam is a columnist with the Lansing State Journal. Contact her at (517) 267-1304 or at jputnam@lsj.com. Follow her on twitter @judyputnam.


Poster Comment:

“He’s a little bit off the grid and his artwork is a reflection of that. Is he a serious artist? Absolutely,” said Tim Lane, the former curator for (SCENE) Metrospace from 2008 to 2015. Lane works for the city of East Lansing, helping run the East Lansing Art Festival.

Lane hasn’t seen The Blue Loop but said: “As an artist myself, it makes me cringe a little to think that someone could prohibit you from creating your art on your property.”

It makes me cringe too, knowing that there are some here at LF who hate individuals who want to use their own property as they see fit without having the over-reaching arm of the state give its blessing. (4 images)

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#1. To: All (#0)

He has a house where he’s lived for nearly 40 years plus two outbuildings he uses as studios.

Oh for crying out loud! He has lived there for forty years. Some yuppie snowflakes move in next door, whine to the town about the art.

Leave the guy alone - it's his property.

“Truth is treason in the empire of lies.” - Ron Paul

Trump: My People Should ‘Sit Up in Attention’ Like Kim Jong-un’s Staff.

Deckard  posted on  2018-07-16   7:01:36 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#2. To: Deckard (#0)

It’s a civil rights struggle,” he said. "That’s my form of speech in a way so it infringes on civil rights in that respect.”

Looks like a pile of trash to me. Dumping trash everywhere isn't art and isn't speech.

I do agree he should be to do it though.

A K A Stone  posted on  2018-07-16   8:05:28 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#3. To: A K A Stone (#2)

Looks like a pile of trash to me. Dumping trash everywhere isn't art and isn't speech.

I do agree he should be to do it though.

You should have seen the mess that one guy used to have on Hawkins Schoolhouse Rd. It's a dead end road leading out into the woods and most of it was hidden from the main road. The city made him clean up that mess and I'd bet it took 6 mos to get rid of it all.

Vegetarians eat vegetables. Beware of humanitarians!

CZ82  posted on  2018-07-16   8:27:03 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#4. To: Deckard (#0)

The Blue Loop is tucked away on his 1 ½-acre heavily wooded lot.

That would be a lot sized 255 feet by 255 feet. Not a huge amount of land to hide his "art".

misterwhite  posted on  2018-07-16   9:51:52 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


#5. To: Deckard (#0)

It's his property, but obviously some "artists" would be better off flipping burgers.

Hank Rearden  posted on  2018-07-17   10:24:34 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  


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