Making “Rise Up Grand Rapids”
– the “Art” is in the process as much as in the product – an interesting part of this temporary installation project is that it required prior understanding, approval, participation, and TRUST from the audience before it could be completed. Although it was done by an artist in the name of art, it took place very much in the community. It felt a lot like what neighbors do naturally – they go next door and say “Can I borrow your ladder for a few days”. And neighbors usually lend their ladders because they are going to be used to clean, paint, fix-up or rescue something….or make the world better in some way. In this case I told them that their ladder would be used to represent the role they play in their community—connected to the whole—holding each other up—rising up together.
CLICK HERE for a complete list of Ladder Lenders.
1. Spreading the Word
• Through press releases, organizational contact email lists, distributing flyers at the farmers market, and going door to businesses and neighborhoods. Charlie
(with the help of some volunteers) informed the community that he needed to borrow ladders to create a sculpture that would be a metaphor for the hopes,
dreams, and aspirations of the community.
2. The Sales Pitch
Would you like to be a part of the community represented in “Rise Up Grand Rapids”?
• Your ladder, with your name on a large I.D. tag (or whoever’s name you want to lend it in honor of) will be part of the sculpture and listed on the website.
• All ladders will be returned at the end of the project (unless the owner does not want them back; in which case they will be donated to Home Repair Services,
a non-profit org. serving low income home owners).
• A wide variety of ladders from the broadest possible kinds of sources are needed to represent the whole community and all of its different parts.
• Don’t have a ladder? – you can hand-make a creative ladder, borrow one from someone else – some have lent whatever they stand on to reach higher
as their ladder…a bucket, chair…… even a toy ladder will do. We won’t turn any ladder away – this is a community sculpture so we will use anything anyone
from the community lends us as their ladder.
• Perhaps there is someone or some part of the community that you admire, and want to be represented in “Rise Up Grand Rapids” – you
could organize to lend a ladder in their name.
3. Getting the Ladders
• If at all possible we encouraged people to deliver their ladders to the site on one of the 5 days of construction. This accounted for ½ of the ladders
and we added the ladders to the sculpture as they arrived.
• We organized pick-ups for ladders that owners could not deliver.
• We (Charlie and one or more volunteers) deliberately took 5 days (Sat. – Wed.) to construct the sculpture so that there would be time to interact
with the people who delivered their ladders and for observers who wanted to talk.
• Although the structure looks chaotic with ladders just “piled on” there was a deliberate structural design of connected triangles held together in tension
similar to that of a geodesic dome. Some of the ladders supported the structure and others were supported by it – after the initial structure was formed,
ladders were added to fill in spaces, and create the look of a dome with an open top.
• The incompleteness of the dome, with ladders reaching out across the top, was meant to refer to the community as being “under construction” and in
the process of building itself. No ladders were turned away – we always said that there was room for more.
• During the 17 days of the exhibition flyers were made available at the site providing information on how many ladders were used and where they came from,
and the same information was made available on the riseupgrandrapids.com website.
• Charlie, working with one or more volunteers, disassembled the structure in 2 days. The “ladder lending forms”, filled out when the ladders were received,
were helpful in organizing the 4-day process of returning them to their owners.
• Approximately a third of the ladders were donated by their owners to “Home Repair Services”.
• “Rise Up Grand Rapids” could not have happened without the support and help of Ron Pederson, Sculptor and Professor of Art at Aquinas College.
Several of his students helped spread the word and construct the sculpture and his colleague Steve Shouser spent a day helping with the installation.
And, lots of his friends lent ladders.
• Willis Dekam, and Pat Bush (Charlie’s brothers-in-law) were a big help in picking-up, constructing, de-constructing and returning ladders. Glenda Brouwer
(wife of Charlie) organized the huge task of returning the ladders. The Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids provided the venue and their Director of
Communications, Mary Harmon, was very helpful as their facilitator. Home Repair Services helped in receiving and transporting ladders. George Heartwell,
Mayor of Grand Rapids, lent the first ladder and his enthusiastic support throughout the project. “Like good neighbors” the people of Grand Rapids
lent their ladders because they trusted an artist and believed that it was worthwhile to let him join their ladders to 100’s of others in a symbol for
their interdependent, diverse and hopeful community.
Other Installations by Charlie Brouwer
View clips from "Rise Up Winston-Salem"
CLICK HERE to go to Charlie's main web site, charliebrouwer.com