A thriving art culture. Galleries. Murals. Sculptures. Live theatre. Music festivals. Film festivals.
We tend to think these assets are mostly available to those who live in or visit big cities. But on the beautiful shores of Lake Huron, right here in northeast Michigan, that colorful, vibrant arts culture is exactly what we find.
August and Peggy Matuzak are both artists, avid supporters of the entire arts community, and lifelong residents of Alpena. They have turned their love of the arts into a legacy and feast for the eyes from which our communities will benefit forever.
When a project to create large art sculptures around Alpena kicked off in the 1970s, there was plenty of excitement, but very little funding. In fact, the project petered out after the first sculpture, the fountain in front of Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan, was installed in 1978. The project recently regained momentum with the help of Timothy Kuehnlein, the Matuzaks, and others who worked to revive it.
The Matuzaks, who owned an art gallery in downtown Alpena for three years after retirement, say Alpena’s natural beauty makes the area the perfect canvas for large-scale public art.
“The sculptures provide us with something unexpected in a small town. They are there for everyone: residents, visitors, young and old; everyone can enjoy them, even if they’re not into art,” said August Matuzak.
So, August and Peggy decided to do two things. The first was to establish the endowed Art Vision Alpena Fund at the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan. The second was to ensure the fund would be large enough to sustain the sculptures’ care in perpetuity by including the new fund in their will. By doing both, the Matuzaks can do something a bit unconventional: witness their legacy in action!
“Whether we know it or not, we all want to make our world a better place. We feel that by doing something during our lifetime, we can enjoy the results along with everyone else while we are still alive,” says August. “It provides us with a great sense of joy to do something now and see the tangible results instead of waiting and hoping something happens with our money when we are no longer here.”
“The Matuzaks attended the unveiling of the first set of sculptures by Thunder Bay Arts back in 2017 – Global Collaboration Awareness and Departure of the Great Blue Heron. They could see the value of resuscitating the sculpture component of the original Alpena Bi-Path plan, and they translated inspiration into action and deeds,” says Timothy Kuehnlein. “I’ll never forget their request to get involved in this special way. It demonstrated a long-range perspective on immediate progress being made, and in the promotion of this unique opportunity to promote the arts through large-scale public sculpture."
As the project moves forward once again, Peggy says the effort is truly one of the community. She notes that Art Vision Alpena has received help from individuals, foundations, businesses and municipalities to get the sculptures in place.
“When we have asked for support, everyone has been more than willing to help, and that is what makes this so special,” says Peggy. “It is why Alpena was an ideal place for this to happen.”
Peggy has been doing stained and fused glass work for 40 years, while August took on fused glass about ten years ago. They have been involved with Art in the Loft, local art shows, concerts and museums, immersing themselves in local art. They truly feel artists are part of the same community and need to strive to support each other.
“We have always loved many different forms of art, and we know that many more people feel the same way. Sometimes, you just need to get the ball rolling, and the rest takes care of itself,” says August. “As shown by the community support of our projects, we feel we have provided the impetus to do just that for these sculptures.”
When it comes to the Art Vision Alpena Fund, August and Peggy say they believe in the long-term stability of the fund and have confidence in its management at CFNEM. It gives them comfort knowing how the fund is managed, and that it will have the fiscal strength it needs for many years to come.
“The Matuzaks are not just donating money; they are actively helping realize a long-term plan for community development with their literal “living” trust,” says Kuehnlein who is also a former CFNEM Board President. “Their engagement will last for their lifetime and generations to come. What an amazing and rewarding thing to witness for yourself and for a beloved community.”
“We like knowing that our gift will do what it should long after we are gone,” says August. “That gives us security knowing the funds will be doing good things well into the future. This is something our town can be proud of, and provide us with a real sense of place to share with everyone.”