Downriver artist continues work on community sculpture initiative

This summer, the Downriver communities were looking forward to witnessing the first of many outdoor kinetic sculptures to be installed throughout their region; however, Covid-19 put this project on pause for the first half of 2020. 

With the state of Michigan advancing into phases of reopening, the production of this outdoor sculpture is finally commencing.

The Downriver Council for the Arts (DCA) has collaborated with artist and community art director, Emily Kokay, on introducing an art installation, called Downriver’s Art Motion, to the region. 

This initiative consists of kinetic sculptures to be installed throughout a variety of Downriver cities, focusing on outdoor public spaces, parks and waterways. 

This project utilizes the arts and culturally-engaging activities to closely connect the residents to their community. 

The plan is to fund these installations through grants and donations, resulting in no cost to the host city and stipends are available for the artists working on the projects. 

To begin the first sculpture, Kokay was awarded a grant by CultureSource in October of 2019. Creators of Culture is administered by CultureSource and funded by The Kresge Foundation, Erb Family Foundation and Hudson-Webber Foundation. 

Those grants totaled $12.2 million and introduced a single, streamlined application process by which all four could make individual decisions following a common review process. The new Creators of Culture grant was created as a new outreach to support smaller, younger, less formal producers of art.

The concept for these installations contain the theme of the four elements of creation: earth, water, fire and air. This unique and creative outdoor installation has the ability to energize the residents and activate them to get more involved with impactful community affairs. 

This public series will eventually lead to promote walkability and health and wellness for Downriver through roads connecting the sculptures, literally creating “motion” and motivation for the public. 

Ultimately, these sculptures will plant a certain awareness of art within the community and bring forth a unique aesthetic and attraction for Downriver. Plans are to involve the community and have local artists, trades people, welders, sculptors, mechanical engineers and others interact with the production and installation of these kinetic sculptures. 

Along with this involvement, valuable cohort opportunities will emerge for local students to contribute to a unique art project within their region. Essentially, Downriver’s Art Motion encourages visual art appreciation and recognition within the community.

The first sculpture is to be displayed at Dingell Park in Ecorse. Kokay, along with assistance from Erin Suess, Executive Director of the Downriver Council for the Arts, have met with Ecorse city officials to determine site plans and needs. 

The first of four elements will be fire. The visual concept is a solar sun which will move in a wave-like motion, reflect light during the day, and illuminate like fire during the night. 

The artistic objective is for each of these elements to express positivity by embracing opportunity, growing with change, and triumphing through challenges; expressed visually through the luminescence of light reflection and flow of the sculptures themselves as they give motion throughout the Downriver area.

If you are interested in contributing to this project or find out ways for your community to be involved, please contact the DCA at or 734-720-0671.

Emily Kokay is a Carlson High School Alumni, class of 2014 and University of Toledo Graduate with honors in Visual Art, class of 2018. She currently creates art to display and works on commissions. 

Recently, she has taken on a role as the Community Art Director at the Downriver Council for the Arts and works on researching and directing public art, community events, and bridging the gaps between sister art centers throughout Michigan. 

Emily’s goals as community art director are to bring forth an awareness in art, utilize the arts to impact and heal others, and provide an artistic enrichment for our culture.

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