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John Sauve
Detroit Opera House
1526 Broadway St , detroit, michigan 48226
June 14, 2013 - June 14, 2013

John Sauve's 'Man in the City' brings silhouettes in fedoras to Detroit

You may have seen him on rooftops all around town.

With his jaunty fedora and casual stance, he looks to be a dapper sort of guy with a special interest in Detroit. He stares out over avenues and intersections, eyes fixed on the horizon. No cops in evidence? Not to worry. The orange guy — the "Man in the City" — is watching out for you.

He's 5 feet tall, made of solid steel and weighs 50 pounds. His public debut came three years ago in New York, where he hung out for awhile as a public art project on Manhattan's High Line, the park crafted from an elevated, abandoned railroad line. "Man in the City" also spent time in Benton Harbor. But he likes Detroit best, says his creator, Brighton artist and arts educator John Sauve.

"This Detroit thing has been the best experience ever," Sauve says. "It's the city I grew up in and love, and the people I've met through installing the sculptures have been tremendous. I like to think of it as building community through public art."

There are now about 30 "Men in the City" scattered around downtown and Midtown. You'll find him on top of Recycle Here! in the New Center, Brooklyn Street Local restaurant on Michigan Avenue near Corktown, on Great Lakes Coffee on Woodward Avenue, at the Detroit Opera House and in a couple locations at Eastern Market.

It's not the first citywide public art project, of course. Some might say it bears some resemblance Tyree Guyton of the Heidelberg Project's colorful, large polka dots that popped up around Detroit 10 years or so ago. Reaching even further back, it also calls to mind the late-'80s "Demolished by Neglect" stencils painted on collapsed buildings as a way of generating public outrage — or the "Object Orange" campaign that spray-painted ruined houses bright orange.

Sauve, by the way, says he chose orange for "Man in the City" as a way of tipping his hat to Mark di Suvero, the giant-scale sculptor who often works in the same color. (The work in front of the University of Michigan Museum of Art in Ann Arbor is di Suvero's "Orion.")

The "Man in the City" project has been years in the making. Sauve says its origins were in silkscreens he was printing back in the early 1990s.

"I was working with male images that had to do with previous jobs and careers I've had," he says. "He started out just as a shadow in the prints. But then he took center stage."

"Man" became a way for Sauve to work with kids, often at schools without art programs through an enterprise supported by his Sauve Art Foundation. He launched the High Line project with gay and lesbian kids from New York's Hetrick-Martin Institute.

In Detroit, Sauve has worked with students in Detroit's Woodbridge neighborhood who have created miniature "Men in the City." There's talk of a show of their work at Detroit's Scarab Club in June, as well as having a June 14 "opening" for "Man in the City" on the roof of the Detroit Opera House.

The exact time has yet to be pinned down, says DOH director of operations Jason Warzecha, but he says the public will be invited.

"I live downtown and all of a sudden started seeing these guys on other businesses and thought, 'What the heck is going on here?'" Warzecha says. As part of the June 14 event, he says, the Opera House will display the students' work and hold a silent auction to raise money for Sauve's ongoing educational work.

For Deveri Gifford, co-owner of Brooklyn Street Local, hosting a "Man in the City" on the restaurant's roof was a great way to support local art and community and add a little pizzazz to the streetscape.

"I like how John describes 'Man' as a place maker," Gifford says. "It helps connect different parts of Detroit, which is so spread out, and reminds us we're all in the same city."

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From The Detroit News:

Posted by John Sauvé on 6/14/13

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