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Oakland University professor, alum create art installations for West Michigan exhibition

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, Oakland University Associate Professor of Theatre Jeremy Barnett and theatre alumnus Jason Maracani are creating seven new art installations in the West Michigan communities of Saugatuck, Douglas, Holland, and Fennville as part of a special summer exhibition.


“Part of the reason I love doing public art is it gets people excited about their community,” Barnett said. “It brings people out and it brings people together. I think that’s really important, that pride in the community and excitement about things happening in public spaces.”


The exhibition, titled “Create Community: Spaces for Discovery,” opens June 17 and will remain on display through September. Each location features a way to interact with, learn from, and see the community in a creative new way.


“I hope these installations add color and a bit of joy for people who aren’t familiar with these spaces and that it’s a pleasant surprise,” Barnett said. “For people that are familiar with these spaces, I also hope it’s a pleasant surprise, and that it livens the space they’re familiar with.”


Each installation uses “everyday objects” — many found in our local environments — to call to mind each community’s deep environmental treasures like the river and lake, agricultural fields, woodlands, dunescapes, and more.


“It’s about taking the thing that is already inherent in the landscape and dialing it up with color, with lines, with shapes, with things that direct the experience in a way that makes you conscious of the installation, but more importantly makes you conscious of the space itself,” Barnett said. “Once you’re past looking at the sculpture, hopefully the sculpture gives you a reason to be more mindful of the space in the community.”


Community involvement was also a major part of the installation process, as more than 100 volunteers — including elementary school students, high school students, and retirees — helped build the structures.


“Much of what we’re doing is creating an opportunity to celebrate not only the landscape, but the members of the community who contribute to these projects,” Barnett said. “For example, we have 16 red rowboats at various sites, 14 of which were built by Saugatuck High School students. We also have an exhibition that has 140 Plexiglas windows and approximately 80 of those windows are going to be painted by school children as part of the summer arts program.”


To learn more about “Spaces for Discovery,” visit

Chamber Trustees