Sculptures that have intrigued and delighted neighbors and passersby in Plymouth Township for decades are on their way to a new home in the Charlevoix area.
The abstract concrete sculptures, some of which incorporate found and everyday objects, are the works of the late Hal Stein, who placed them in his yard on Ball Street, south of Ann Arbor Road, over the years, inviting neighbors and the curious to take a look. “He was always happy to have people come in and look at the sculpture,” Stein's daughter, Kathleen Stein, said of her father's sculpture garden. “It was a landmark in the area.”
Stein, an art teacher retired from Wayne Memorial High School, died last December at the age of 93. His wife Dorothy, a retired mathematics teacher, died in 2001; they had purchased the house on Ball Street in 1956.
Former student Cal Kemppainen, an artist who owns a commercial sign business, arranged to take the sculptures to his home near Charlevoix. Even though their styles are different, Kemppainen, a representational painter, Stein worked more in abstracts. Stein was an important influence and mentor. Kemppainen remembers Stein’s Wayne Memorial art class as going beyond drawing techniques to include lessons about Andy Warhol and art movements current in the 1960’s. “To get that kind of an education, you would really have to get a college-level class. I always came to talk to him and get his points of view on art”, says Kemppainen.
Kemppainen owns a 140-year-old Gothic revival farmhouse, which he restored on 30 acres near Charlevoix. Plans include setting up the 23 major sculptures and about as many smaller ones on 10 acres at the front of his property before opening the sculpture garden to the public.
Stein used a pit in his back yard to make the sculptures, taking sand and clay to make forms, into which he poured the concrete. Kathleen Stein said her father also wrote poetry and meditations, took photographs, and painted. He especially liked “assemblage,” she said, that is, the use of found and commonplace objects in three-dimensional works.
“He was just one of those people who created just like breathing,” Kathleen Stein is an instructor in art history at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y. She said her father's abstract sculptures were an expression of spirituality and his search for creativity and growing up with her father’s creativity was “magical.” She is planning to help Kemppainen with the placement of the sculptures. Kemppainen plans to build footings for the works in order to make their installation as permanent as possible. She's happy the sculptures will continue to be displayed and in Kemppainen's care. “My father's works will continue to be teachers,”
The sculpture garden will be near the intersection of Ferry Road and U.S. 31, about six miles south of Charlevoix Michigan.
Cal Kemppainen is passing on this knowledge to students he has helped in the Susan K. Black Foundation Teen Program in Dubois, Wyoming. Each fall the foundation sponsors high school students from Dubois to participate in an extensive study of basic techniques in painting.