Kaleva's Christmas Gift
Artist donates sparkling, 30-foot glass and crystal mosaic to her new neighborhood, Kaleva.
By Al Parker | Dec. 14, 2019
One of Kaleva's newest residents is making a 30-foot creative gift to honor her adopted Manistee County home.
Mosaic artist Patricia Boucha is donating a large six panel glass display that will illustrate Kaleva's Finnish legacy.
“I moved here in August and took a walk in the Sculpture Park and went through the Kaleva Art Gallery,” said Boucha. “I decided then that I wanted to donate something to this community.”
Boucha, who previously owned and operated an art gallery in Ann Arbor, won't be taking a fee for the project.
Financial support for materials is from the Kaleva Historical Society and from grants, which are still being pursued. Boucha estimates the total cost to be $10,000 to $15,000. Fundraising is now underway and Boucha has been working to generate donations. One company that she has dealt with for years has agreed to donate Swarovski crystals to the mosaic project.
Each mosaic panel would measure 5 feet by 3 feet and be on 1/2-inch tempered glass. The colorful design calls for them to rotate – similar to a carousel – and be lighted for viewing.
The plan is for this project to be a spectacular, eye-catching creation.
“We want people to come from around the world to see this,” said Boucha.
Work on the first panel is expected to start after Christmas, according to Boucha, who created a 15-foot marigold glass mosaic sculpture that stands outside the Pittsfield Township Hall near Ann Arbor in 2013.
The project will be built at Boucha's home studio where she will create the first panel, then oversee construction of the other five. She's hoping to have members of the community stop in and take part in the mosaic work. Target date to complete the first panel is May or June of 2020, she said. Other panels will be completed when funding is secured.
The initial panel features Väinämöinen, a hero and central character in Finnish folklore. He's the star of the national epic, Kalevala, from which the village takes its name. Some experts identify him as the inspiration for Gandalf, the wizard in J.R.R. Tolkien's novel "The Lord of the Rings."
Despite its tiny size of fewer than 500 residents, Kaleva has a rich legacy of art and history.
The town became known as Kaleva when the Michigan Land Society secured a Finnish land agent by the name of Jacob Saari from Brooklyn, New York, to sell land in the area and lure Finns to settle there. In 1900, Saari and others moved to the village. It was Saari who named the town.
“In 1969, the Kaleva Historical Society (KHS) was formed by members of the community who wanted to preserve the heritage and history of Kaleva,” said KHS President Cindy Asiala.
Thirty-two years later, the Art Gallery – a co-operative that features jewelry, weaving and other artworks – was founded. It has about 125 members and supports many local artists and crafters, Asiala said.
The Sculpture Walkway, which extends from Nine Mile Road, north to Wuoski Street, was created by students of Brethren High School in 1999 to celebrate Kaleva's centennial year.
Its unique sculptures include:
· A giant grasshopper designed and crafted by students under the direction of Wellston welder and metal artist Andy Priest. The students heard about the legend of St. Urho chasing the grasshoppers out of Finland and saving the grape crop. They decided to build a 500-pound, 18-foot grasshopper out of discarded metal parts. They named it “Farmer's Nightmare” when it was dedicated in March 2000. Signage at the sight explains this one got away and landed in Kaleva but will cause no damage to local crops.
· A sculpture to honor Kalevea's longtime mayor Robert Rengo was also designed by Priest, who crafted it in the shape of the airplane that Rengo flew during World War II when he soared over the China Hump. A grant from the Finlandia Foundation helped make sculpture possible.
· Kaleva artist Robert Ramirez used 2,660 wire coat hangers to create Väinämöinen’s ship. The legend says that the Finnish hero's powerful singing voice created a metal ship to carry him away; this sculpture honors that tale.
· Three 4-foot by 4-foot panels painted with Finnish-inspired patterns and symbols was created by local artist Melvin Fennell. Two panels depict Finnish designs, while the third features a crowned lion, Finland's coat of arms. The display also features a Finnish poem.
· The walkway's newest addition is a 13-foot tall sculpture tree featuring 130 silvery metal leaves. Priest meticulously welded each of the leaves in place to honor Kaleva's past business owners and community contributors. It was dedicated in 2014.
To support the mosaic project or learn more about it, call Asiala at (231) 299-4484 or write to the Kaleva Historical Society at Box 252, Kaleva, MI 49645.