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Michigan Stadium bridges to receive artistic flair with 'Arbor Winds'


Walking along the bridges outside Michigan Stadium, visitors will soon pass under shimmery aluminum tiled banners of trees blowing with the wind. They also will notice shadows of branches on the sidewalks produced from nearby glass panels etched with pictures. Heading down under the overpass, the concrete walls will be lined with stone slabs with carved images of trees, lit by LEDs.

It's the latest project by theAnn Arbor Public Art Commission. The commission held a contest for artists to create a public art piece for the East Stadium Boulevard bridges. The contest had a $360,000 limit.

Catherine Widgery is the Massachusetts designer who won the contest. Her design, "Arbor Winds," features images she took of trees around Ann Arbor.

"When I visited Ann Arbor, one of the things that struck me was the presence of trees," Widgery explained. "It was as if the town founders had in mind the creation of a place that was beautiful and intimately connected to nature. The idea for the trees is a metaphor for the energy and richness of the place."

The Public Arts Commission says this area is significant because of its high level of traffic, both vehicle and pedestrian. The art on the East Stadium bridge, commissioners say, has the potential to become a landmark in Ann Arbor.

The final four design concepts were discussed by the Public Arts Commission, and put up for community input to select a winner. "Arbor Winds" won the contest for its multi-platform designs.

Credit catherinewidgery.com

On the State Street underpass, Widgery plans to construct large stone panels with etchings of photographs she took of trees around Ann Arbor. The panels will be lit by LED lights.

Widgery has created public art for cities across the country. She says while some critics see public art as a poor use of funds, public art helps revive cities and bring people in.

"I think its even been said to be an economic boom for towns because it changes the quality of life," Widgery said.  "There are few things actually for a small amount of money that have as much visual impact as public art. It provides the town with an identity."

One of the challenges for the design, Widgery said, was finding a concept that worked well for those walking and driving, and on all sides of the bridge. She hopes her design will reflect the image of Ann Arbor, apart from the University of Michigan.

"I think that it's going to be an opportunity for Ann Arbor to have something that's its own, not something directly from the university. The university has such a powerful presence, but how Ann Arbor, as a community, as a whole, beyond the university, might now have a statement."

The concept is still under revision and planning. Construction is expected to begin in about a year.

-Alana Holland, Michigan Radio Newsroom