Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How about a Buster Keaton Statue in Bluffton?

For some years now, I've been working on this history of a vaudeville Actors' Colony started by, among others, Joe Keaton. His son, of course, was Buster.

Many ideas have emerged from the project. The first was a "Second Day of Issue" cancellation for the Keaton U.S. Postage Stamp (I was too late to the game to get the first day of issue). Then there was mounting an exhibit spanning his career at the local County Museum. It was enjoyed by local residents and visitors to Muskegon for the first Keaton Convention way back in 1995. Next came a the publication of a booklet entitled Buster Keaton and the Muskegon Connection - The Actors' Colony at Bluffton 1908-1938. Then it was showing Keaton films at the Frauenthal (14 years now and counting).

Three years into the original concept, we were able to request and purchase a Michigan state historical marker for the area. One side honors the colony, the other side, Keaton. It was placed in what I'll call a small pocket park overlooking the colony. Among my dreams for this space was a statue of Keaton.

My dreams are big...

Thanks to the city's greatest benefactor, Charles Hackley, Muskegon plays host to some beautiful public sculptures. Located in the downtown area, Joseph Carabelli created a 76-foot tall Civil War monument dedicated on Memorial Day, May 30, 1892 in Hackley Park. Expanding the concept, Hackley commissioned sculptor Charles Niehaus to created monuments to Abraham Lincoln and David Farragut, and sculptor J. Massey Rhind to create pieces honoring Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman. The four statues were dedicated on Memorial Day, 1900.

A year later, another monument was presented by Hackley. This one of Philip Kearny by Henry Kirke Brown was dedicated on Memorial Day 1901 and stands a short distance from downtown. Internet research states that it is a copy of the Kearny statue placed in the United States Capitol by the state of New Jersey.

Six weeks following the assassination of President William McKinley, Hackley commissioned Niehaus to create a piece honoring McKinley. It was unveiled on Memorial Day, 1902. It stands across the street from the "Hackley Park" collection.

Instead of a monument to war heroes, my thought was a monument to a man who made us laugh.

In sticking with tradition, my thought was to mimic the approach taken by Hackley. Wouldn't it be nice to put the piece on a block of granite? To take it a step further, it would be wonderful to dedicate it on a Memorial Day. After all, Keaton did serve in World War I.

Instead of formal pose, however, the image that I've always had in mind was this publicity shot of Keaton taken from the Navigator. Of all the stills that I've seen of Buster Keaton, it seemed most appropriate.

Using some of the rigging, Buster would be perched precariously on the granite block, gazing across the road, beyond Bluffton and the Colony, toward Muskegon Lake.

"Lake Muskegon", as Keaton referred to it, was the view that he had as a child while growing up in the family cottage, "Jingles Jungle". Keaton, according to his late widow, Eleanor, always considered Muskegon "home".

Of course, the concept has always been only a pipe dream.

Over the years I've bounced the idea around with some locals. While the image is detailed in my mind, I've always been asked to present a "model" of the monument, as well as estimated costs.

When it comes to costs - I've certainly asked around. To date, the estimates have been VERY rough, and have been for the most part, only guesses. (And, since it appears that a block of granite doesn't come cheap, my dream may need some modification...)

I'm a computer guy, not an artist, so I've been lost when it comes to creating a "model" of what I have in mind. Upon occasion, I come across something that may help advance the concept. 3D Printing is a good example, and certainly appeals to the computer guy in me...

That article led me to another site.

Unfortunately they needed more than the Keaton photograph...

From the looks of it, StudioEIS Bonzeworks would be an ideal source of such a creation. I'm sure there are others.

Now, what to do about funding...

No comments: