1,200-pound sculpture, a life-sized horse that is cast bronze on rooftop terrace

Crane places new sculpture by renowned artist on terrace of DeVos Center for Interprofessional Health

The newest art piece installed at Grand Valley's 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 on August 27 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.

The sculpture is made possible by generous gifts from donors Dan and Pamella DeVos, Jim and Donna Brooks, Randy Damstra ’82 and Julie Duisterhof, GVSU 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 and Pioneer Construction workers look at the sculpture on the ground
Nathan Kemler, GVSU director of Galleries and Collections, and Pioneer Construction workers are pictured behind the sculpture on August 27 at the DeVos Center for Interprofessional Health.
Image credit - Bethannee Yeoman
crane begins to hoist sculpture to rooftop of DCIH building, clear blue sky, no clouds
A crane begins to lift the sculpture, 'Char,' onto the roof of the DeVos Center for Interprofessional Health.
Image credit - Bethannee Yeoman
sculpture on base being lowered onto terrace, crane arm in view
Workers from Pioneer Construction get ready to guide the sculpture onto its base.
Image credit - Bethannee Yeoman

More than half of Grand Valley’s collection of 27,000 artworks is on display at any one time throughout the university’s campuses and regional centers, giving students daily access to art as a learning tool.

“Grand Valley’s commitment to making great art a part of the educational experience is commendable,” said Pamella DeVos, who helped identify a need for a sculpture on the terrace. “Engaging with art creates a more holistic learning environment, encouraging thoughtful conversations and engaging discourse. We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with GVSU and others to showcase art of this caliber for the University’s student population and the Grand Rapids community.” 

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."

He emphasized the presence of the life-sized sculpture, the physical dimensions of which made moving it through the building to the terrace logistically impractical. 

“That presence is why having the piece in a public setting is so important,” Kemler said. “Taking in the sculpture in person reinforces the impact of the artwork's story."

two people work to take moving blanket and materials off sculpture
Nicole Webb, left, and Nathan Kemler remove packing materials from the sculpture.
Image credit - Bethannee Yeoman


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