UP artist unveils bronze Hemingway statue in Lower Peninsula

GLADSTONE — Earlier this year, we brought you the story of Andy Sacksteder, an award-winning artist out of Gladstone who bronzes life-size clay sculptures. At the time, he was working on an undisclosed statue for commission, but he recently unveiled that statue in downstate Petoskey. ABC Ten’s Chelsea Birdsall caught up with the man behind the statue to see what the finished piece looks like.

This was the site of downtown Petoskey on July 21 as Gladstone artist Andy Sacksteder unveiled a statue of Ernest Hemingway.

“For me, it was very exciting, a little nerve-racking,” said Sacksteder. “The woman that commissioned me hadn’t seen the finished product so when they unveiled it, I was actually watching her reaction more than the statue so that was a great moment for me, seeing her reaction.”

Hemingway spent his first 20 summers in a cottage on Walloon Lake near Petoskey with his family who made the trip up from Illinois. The picture that Sacksteder worked from was taken of Hemmingway in 1920 near the very spot the statue stands as he was getting ready to board a train to Toronto for a job. Hemingway would later write a group of short stories based on Northern Michigan, which is said to be an inspiration for many of his works.

According to the Petoskey News, July 21, 2017 was declared “Young Ernest Hemingway Day” by Petoskey Mayor John Murphy, which marks the birth of the author nearly 120 years prior.

“It was actually quite an honor to do it. I did a lot of research on him,” Sacksteder said. “His life was very colorful. He did a lot of different things. It was a great experience just learning about him and doing just such an icon. It was a great experience.”

Sacksteder was up against four other sculptors for the commission and worked on the masterpiece for four and a half months. The Hemingway statue started the same as any other, with a heavy wire frame called an armature to support the weight of the clay that is added atop an expanding foam, scraped into shape of the body. From there, he continues to add clay and etches in the details until he comes up with an end piece, ready to be bronzed.

Sacksteder is now getting ready for ArtPrize, an international art competition in downstate Grand Rapids, which displays upwards of 1,500 art pieces for more than 500,000 attendees every year. This is his fourth time at the competition, having won two prizes previously, third place people’s choice four years ago and first place installation two years ago. This year, Sacksteder is submitting a dog looking up at this light keeper, which will be staged with sandstone, sand, grass, to have an appearance of being on a coast.

“If you want to experience art of all different kinds, I really suggest you take the time to go down there,” Sacksteder said. “It’s 19 days long and if you want to see it all, it’ll probably take 2-3 days, but if you have just one day to spend, it’s a beautiful time of year in the fall in a beautiful city. Your eyes will really be opened to the art world and everyone’s imaginations go in different directions.”