East Grand Rapids, Michigan, March 14, 2019 – “Ice Breakers,” a massive drawing by ArtPrize Winner Chris LaPorte, was recently installed for the public to view at the East Grand Rapids Community Center.
Standing at 12 feet by 8 feet, “Ice Breakers” is now encased and displayed in the upper-level rotunda of the Community Center. The work is a life-size portrait inspired by a 1910 image that originated from the East Grand Rapids History Room. It shows men who worked in the icehouses on the shores of Reeds Lake.
LaPorte met with Mary Dersch, History Room curator, during summer 2015 in search of historical photos that may inspire future works. During the following summer, the EGR City Commission approved a partnership with LaPorte to bring this monumental piece of artwork to the EGR Community Center.
Since the partnership was approved almost three years ago, LaPorte worked with two art representatives, Vicki Bouwkamp and Greg McAlleenan, to raise funds for the project.
The project was entirely funded by private donors, including BISSELL Inc., Rachel and Martin Stein and Family, the McAleenan and Turmelle Families, the Dersch Family, Vos Glass, and the Friends of East Grand Rapids Library.
“The opportunity to incorporate a significant piece of art that celebrates the rich history of East Grand Rapids into our Community Center is an exciting opportunity,” Mayor Amna Seibold said. “It is made even greater by the fact that it will face Reeds Lake, which has been such an integral part of our community.”
Ice companies were first established on the shores of Reeds Lake in the late 1800s and, by 1903, Consumers Ice Company had a presence on the lake. The company had several very large icehouses, which extended out onto the lake and were located where the current EGR Middle School soccer field is. In its prime, the company had more than 500 men who worked during the winter scoring and chipping ice into 22-inch blocks that would eventually be delivered to homes and businesses in the area to be used in ice boxes.
“I’m always searching for new sources of inspiration and the EGR History Room was a wonderful resource for my work.” LaPorte said. “Mary’s extensive knowledge and enthusiasm of local history and the stories behind the images inspired me and helped shape this piece.”
The drawing was created on 100 percent cotton paper and is based on an original image. Though, as in all of LaPorte’s work, he made artistic decisions to create an original composition. For instance, the original source image was wider, with several more figures than the final canvas would hold comfortably. So he removed and rearranged some subjects to create a more symmetrical composition, which LaPorte says was a nod to the organized, geometric nature of ice cubes.
Though a typical work drawn in 2H pencil like this takes LaPorte three to four months, he completed the work in just seven weeks so that the piece could be included in a February 2016 Texas A&M University solo exhibition.
“I’m drawn to the idea of a monument to the everyday and “Ice Breakers” represents that,” LaPorte said. “The men in the photo were caught in the middle of a hard workday – witnessed by some of their expressions. It’s all pretty poetic that it all circles back—that these real people of EGR’s history are coming home.”
So that EGR families and visitors alike can commemorate the City’s rich history, Dersch will be selling limited edition prints of “Ice Breakers” beginning March 20, benefitting the East Grand Rapids History Room. To purchase a print, please contact Dersch, curator of the EGR History Room at email@example.com.
LaPorte is well known for his massive drawings, which he regularly exhibits across the country. His piece, “Cavalry,” was the winner of ArtPrize 2010 and “City Band” was in the 2012 top 10. In addition to his work as an artist, he teaches drawing and painting at Aquinas College. LaPorte holds art degrees from Aquinas College, La Coste Ecole de Beaux Arts and New York Academy of Art.
“This project has been a wonderful collaboration between the City and Chris,” Seibold said. “We’re looking forward to the robust conversations it will create about the arts, history and our community.”
For more information on East Grand Rapids, visit www.eastgr.org. Follow the City on Twitter @cityofeastgr and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CityofEGR.
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