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Sculpture honoring Frostic to be unveiled

April 20, 2009

KALAMAZOO--A sculpture created at Western Michigan University to honor Michigan artist, poet and naturalist Gwen Frostic will be unveiled Sunday, April 26, in Wyandotte, Mich., at the city park that bears her family name.

The unveiling ceremony for the piece, which will be permanently installed at the site, is set for 2 p.m. at Frostic Field on what would have been Frostic's 103rd birthday. Frostic Field, located just north of the Copeland Center near the intersection of Mulberry and Fourth streets in downtown Wyandotte, was dedicated in 2006 to celebrate the achievements of the Frostic family in the community.

Gwen Frostic was a celebrated Michigan artist, whose lifelong love affair with her alma mater culminated in her bequest of a gift of $13 million to WMU, the largest single gift in the school's history. The 1927 WMU alumna died in 2001, the day before her 95th birthday. Widely known for her block print art, she lived at the time of her death in Benzonia, Mich., where she operated Presscraft Papers, Gwen Frostic Prints of Benzonia, a Michigan landmark. In 1986 she was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame.

Frostic's life story began in Sandusky, Mich., in 1906. She moved to Wyandotte with her family in 1918, when her father became superintendent of Wyandotte Public Schools. In the early 1940s she set up her printing business in the family home, which is located just a few blocks from Frostic Field. She used the home's basement and kitchen to produce her work and teach classes. She later moved to an area storefront and remained there until moving her business in 1955 to Benzie County.

There, Frostic started with 40 acres and gradually created a 285-acre wildlife sanctuary 35 miles southwest of Traverse City. Each summer, her home, studio and print shop still draw thousands of visitors who come to shop and see her signature designs produced on her famed Heidelberg presses.

Frostic, who was left with slight paralysis and slurred speech by a childhood illness, never let her physical condition limit her. She became an extraordinarily successful entrepreneur at a time when very few women worked outside the home, much less owned and operated businesses.

With the Gwen Frostic legacy for inspiration, four students from WMU's Frostic School of Art, which was named for her in 2007, worked together with faculty-sculptor John Running-Johnson to create a memorial that could be permanently located in Wyandotte. The initiative was facilitated by the late Dr. Diether H. Haenicke, former president of WMU and a longtime friend to Frostic.

The 11-foot high, 1,200-pound sculpture was completed last fall. Running-Johnson and students Andrea dePollo and Eric Froh, who have since graduated, worked with current students Rob Bartholomew of Kalamazoo and Greg Woody of Auburn, Mich. The team took its artistic cues from the flora and fauna found in Frostic's work and visited both Benzonia and Wyandotte to get a better feel for Frostic and her career. The WMU artists created their own designs, which they cut into steel plates. The plates were folded to resemble Frostic's famous greeting cards and then welded together.

The dedication ceremony will include remarks by Wyandotte Mayor James DeSana, Director of Wyandotte Museums Jody Chansuolme, sculptor John Running-Johnson and Chairperson Shirley Prygoski of the dedication committee. Musical performances by the band and choral students from Roosevelt High School also will be part of the event.

On both Saturday and Sunday, April 25-26, the Wyandotte Museums will hold an annual art show and sale in its 1896 Queen Ann Victorian, at 2610 Biddle Ave. The art works will be placed in every room of the home, and admission is free. For more information, visit the Wyandotte Museums online.


For more information about the sculpture unveiling and art show, contact Shirley Prygoski of Wyandotte at shirley@wyan.org. For information about the Frostic sculpture, contact WMU's Running-Johnson at john.running-johnson@wmich.edu or (269) 387-2430.

For more information about Frostic and her art, visit gwenfrostic.com or the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame. Information about WMU's Frostic School of Art can be found online.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

WMU News
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