Museum unveils inaugural artwork in new sculpture garden at The Jefferson Project

The Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum, located at Saginaw Valley State University, in partnership with The Jefferson Project in Bay City unveiled the installation of new work of public art with a dedication event on Friday, June 23, in Bay City at the location of The Jefferson Project site.

The public art piece titled “Skinny Trees” is a sculpture by Bay County-based artist Mark Bleshenski. The commission is part of the Museum’s “NEA Big Read: Great Lakes Bay Region” initiative and is the first sculpture to be permanently installed at The Jefferson Project site.

“The Jefferson Project is a vision by Golden Gallery owner Avram Golden,” said Erin Pilarski, Community Relations and Marketing Manager of the Museum. “A historic four-story building along with a sculpture park and marketplace will be the perfect innovation center for those to bridge art, technology, manufacturing and community together.”

Bleshenski grew up in Pinconning and Bay County with art surrounding him. He states, “When I was in my teens I worked in my grandfather’s stained-glass studio after school. I guess you could say it is in my blood.”

Bleshenski’s public art installment completes the NEA Big Read initiative that centered on the book “The House on Mango Street” by Hispanic author Sandra Cisneros. The book’s themes, particularly “neighbors and neighborhoods” were the basis for a total of three community art-making projects throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region that commissioned new public art for each of the three counties. The other two installations include a mural by Saginaw-based artist Luka Dziubyna (located at the Mexican American Cultural Center, 1537 S. Washington Ave., Saginaw) and a sculpture by Midland-based artist Annie Stout (located at Creative 360, 1517 Bayliss St., Midland).

Bleshenski’s inspiration for his sculpture came from an image in the Big Read book’s chapter titled ‘The Four Skinny Trees’ — “The chapter describes these four ugly trees that somehow survive in a difficult environment. It is a symbol of hope and courage. I understand that symbolism, but in my interpretation, I also use the trees as a symbol of community, strength, and growth as well, by manipulation of the elements.”

“The Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum is committed to supporting public art, whether it be sculptures by ‘America’s Public Sculptor’ Marshall Fredericks, or emerging local artists from our region. It was our pleasure to drive the NEA Big Read: Great Lakes Bay Region initiative that has brought three new public art works into our communities,” Megan McAdow, director of the Museum said.

Funding for this portion of the collaboration project includes support from the National Endowment for the Arts, Bay Area Community Foundation, Hemlock Semiconductor Corporation, Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum and others. For more information about the initiative, visit the project’s website at