Sculpture by Harold Cronk to pay tribute to Scottville Clown Band, agriculture.

June 27, 2017

Forward March by Harold Cronk.

Sculpture by Harold Cronk to pay tribute to Scottville Clown Band, agriculture.

#ScottvilleNews #ForwardMarch.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

SCOTTVILLE — During the annual patriotic concert of the Scottville Clown Band Tuesday night, the next installment of the Mason County Sculpture Trail was revealed, a sculpture that will pay tribute to the Clown Band and the agricultural heritage of Scottville.

Earlier this year, the Scottville Sculpture Committee commissioned local artist/filmmaker Harold Cronk to create the trail’s first Scottville sculpture, “Forward March.”

The sculpture will feature cartoon-like clowns dressed in hobo outfits, similar to outfits worn by the original band members in the early 1900s. At least two of the clowns will be playing musical instruments in a “round” which will move and will be located in front of the Scottville Clown Band Shell near the Scottville Optimist Center. Throughout the sculpture will be buttons that visitors can push which will play Clown Band music and move the arms and legs of the figures. The sculpture will also feature hidden elements that reveal the town’s history. For example, the bass drummer’s mallet will be accented by an apple. The sculpture’s moving parts will be operated by items such as old tractor and implement parts. A fourth clown will be relaxing on top of the roof of the band shell, his leg slowly swinging back and forth.

The Scottville Sculpture Committee includes representatives of city government, the Scottville Clown Band, the Scottville Optimist Club, the business community and residents.

“We wanted to create a sculpture that represented the best of Scottville,” said committee member Rob Alway, who is also a resident, business owner and treasurer of the Scottville Clown Band. “We also wanted to commission a sculptor who knows our community intimately and understands the spirit of Scottville, its past, its present and its future. The committee members believe that Harold Cronk was a natural for the job.”

Cronk said “Forward March” will be a fun, interactive sculpture that will keep the visitor coming back to discover more of its secrets.

“‘Forward March’ is a kinetic interactive work that draws on Scottville’s rich history with the goal of inspiring both our youth and the young at heart to lead the way into the future,” Cronk said. 

“There are several artists who have had an indelible influence on my work. Alexander Calder, Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak and Walt Disney are just a few of my favorites. For me, the common thread drawn through the heart of each of theses amazing artists is their unrelenting embrace of their child-like spirit. In a world wrought with strife and political upheaval, we desperately need artists who afford us a few moments of escape and maybe even a smile or two. 

“One of my favorite childhood memories is arriving at my first Harvest Festival and watching in awe as the colorful characters of the Clown Band marched past me down the parade route, the  sound of their roaring instruments pouring over me. Combining the themes of our agricultural past with the lively characteristics of the Clown Band served as the main inspiration for ‘Forward March.’

“Agriculture has been a driving force since Scottville was first platted by Hiram Scott in 1882. Therefore, the mechanics of this work will be created from and powered by agricultural elements. The structural supports, or, ‘pillars’, of the piece will reference some of the great men and women who are responsible for laying the foundation for Scottville. And lastly, the bold and  whimsical clown band figures speak directly to the community’s fun-loving good nature and independent spirit. Infused with metaphor and nuance, this work will keep viewers coming back time and again to explore the many hidden details. It points to the future. It speaks to our ingenuity. It celebrates our ability to forge ahead. It will play music. and it will march.”

The members of the sculpture committee said that they wanted to make the Clown Band the primary theme of the sculpture while still playing homage to the town’s agricultural roots.

“While agriculture has played an important role in the history of Scottville, the Clown Band is known throughout Michigan and beyond,” Alway said, adding that the Clown Band has already become one of the first major donors of the sculpture.

The sculpture will be located in front of the Clown Band Shell, with tentative plans of placing it in a newly designed green space that is currently part of the parking lot.

“Our intention is to make the sculpture and the band shell the gathering place for the town,” said Scottville City Manager Amy Williams, a member of the sculpture committee and the Scottville Optimist board. “We, the members of the committee, believe that this sculpture will be a major attraction for our town and will help create a revival, of sorts. In order to help accomplish that, we knew we needed to give the sculpture its own space. We are hoping that the band shell property evolves into a park setting.”

Williams and Alway said the sculpture committee has been holding conversations with the Scottville Optimist Club board on ways to create a visually appealing space that will benefit not only the city but the Optimist Club as well.

“This project goes beyond just the sculpture,” Joe Knowles, president of the Scottville Optimist Club and also a member of the sculpture committee said. “The goal of the Scottville Optimist Club is to update the building’s exterior and interior to make it a facility that will serve the modern needs of the community.”

“This sculpture could be a turning point for Scottville’s economy and create a new point of pride for the town,” said Kathy Maclean, executive director of the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce. “The sculpture offers a different perspective than what we have seen to date on the trail and it certainly is symbolic of Scottville.”

Harold Cronk is a 1993 graduate of Mason County Central High School and a graduate of West Shore Community College. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Central Michigan University, where he majored in art and K-12 education with an emphasis in sculpture. He taught high school art at Evart High School for four years before changing his career to filmmaking. He and his wife, Amy, moved to Los Angeles in 2004 where he worked on several film projects. They eventually moved back to Mason County and he began 10 West Studios with partner Matthew Tailford and also EMC Productions with Scottville native Edgar Struble. Cronk directed the movie “God’s Not Dead,” one of the highest grossing faith-based films of all time.

“I have enjoyed my career in film and find it very challenging,” Cronk said. “But, my first love is sculpture and it’s an honor to have been asked to create this piece for my hometown. I keep coming up with new ideas to add to this sculpture. It’s really an amazing challenge. I think this is an opportunity for Scottville to shine.”

While Cronk is the lead sculptor, he said he has been collaborating with others to design the mechanics of the piece. “I am relying on people like John Holcomb, to help use their engineering skills on making the sculpture move and be interactive,” he said.

The Tuesday announcement of the sculpture was also the launch of the fundraising campaign.

“We have received a financial boost from the Ludington/Mason County Cultural Economic Development Task Force, along with some local businesses, organizations, and individuals, but we have a long way to go to reach our fund raising goal,” Alway said. “We are estimating that the sculpture itself will cost about $100,000 and we have about $25,000 committed so far. We are hoping to raise additional funds to help enhance the green space and possibly the Optimist Center itself.”

Those wishing to contribute to the sculpture may send a donation to Scottville Sculpture, Community Foundation for Mason County, PO Box 10, Ludington, MI 49431.

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