Crane places sculpture from renowned artist atop Health Campus building

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The newest art piece installed at the Daniel and Pamella DeVos Center for Interprofessional Health is a sculpture hoisted by a crane to its place on a fifth-floor terrace. 

The special installation in late August was necessary to properly place the 1,200-pound sculpture, a life-sized horse that is cast bronze. The piece by renowned sculptor Deborah Butterfield, titled "Char," was driven from a Chicago gallery to Grand Rapids before ending its journey with the airborne placement.

A horse sculpture on a crane is silhouetted against the sun, which is low in the sky. Two people steady the platform the horse is standing on.

(Bethannee Yeoman)

The sculpture is made possible by generous gifts from donors Dan and Pamella DeVos, Jim and Donna Brooks, Randy Damstra ’82 and Julie Duisterhof, President Emeritus Arend D. and Nancy Lubbers, and William Lieberman ’79. 

“Char” is a significant addition to GVSU's art collection — the second largest in the state — and to the collection of more than 400 pieces of artwork placed throughout the facility, a process that was guided in part by a community committee that included fashion designer and lead building donor Pamella DeVos. 

Nathan Kemler, GVSU director of Galleries and Collections, said the piece was assembled from charred wood from wildfires in Montana, then eventually molded and cast into bronze. He said both the wood origins of "Char" and its visual representation — the strength and majesty of a horse, but also deep fragility — contribute to a vital theme for health students and for the building where they will learn their profession. 

"Inner strength comes from being vulnerable, and that is the core message I wanted our nursing and health profession students to engage with — that as health service providers, working with others in their own health challenges, there is a need for a sense of vulnerability," Kemler said. "Grand Valley and our community understands what it is to be human, what it means to be a strong individual, and that comes through honesty, vulnerability and perhaps working through some harder things."

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