Photo by Doug Clark.

John Sauve knows how to keep himself very busy.  He is at heart an artist; a sculptor, but he is also the non-profit leader of his own Sauvé Art Foundation, community activist, and teacher to inner-city children through his art programs.  His sculpture work was recently shown at the Chicago Sculpture International Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition in 2012, which included fifty-five large-scale outdoor sculptures from around the world and also included in the 2012 Krasl Biennial Sculpture Exhibition located in St Joe, Michigan. But his most interesting work currently is an on-going sculpture installation, The Man In The City, is which has been literally turning heads all over Metro and downtown Detroit.

Why did you start your non-profit organization, the Sauvé Art Foundation? 

Sauvé Art Foundation was established 10 years ago to bring all of my interests and projects under a one non-profit umbrella.  Whether we are talking about a Sculpture Exhibit, a Film Festival, or the Art and Design Show- the one underlying theme of the Sauvé Art foundation is,  “building communities through public art.”  I think the best way for the Sauvé Art Foundation to have an impact on the community is to design an educational component into public art projects. These high-visibility public art projects, education programs, and events enrich the lives of everyone and has a direct economic impact on the communities that embrace these projects.

What exactly is “The Man In the City” sculpture project? 

The Man in the City Sculpture Project is comprised of 30 sculptures located on the rooftops throughout the City of Detroit.  The project is as much about the sculpture as it is about the people and the locations involved in the project.  Each sculpture location was selected based the architecture of the building it is installed on, the buildings significance in the City of Detroit and the relationship to other sculpture locations in the project.

Installation of the sculpture in the Man in the City Sculpture Project is still underway.  A Map will be available at the June 14th at the dedication of the exhibit, which will be located on the Roof of the Detroit Opera House. Because the sculptures are located on rooftop locations throughout the City of Detroit, the installation process has provided me with views of the City that make for a dramatic backdrop for the exhibit.  These rooftop installations have also provided me with several challenges, including old fire escapes with missing steps, pit bulls, and a proven cure for Acrophobia.

What is the concert series that will be part of The Man in the City project?

During the time that The Man in the City will be displayed in the City of Detroit, I will be sponsoring a Concert Series as a way to connect the sculpture project to Detroit’s rich musical history. For our first event in the series, we partnered with UDetroit Café to raise money for the Carr Center Children’s Music program.  UDetroit is the home to the multi-Grammy award winning Pastoria Brothers and Harmonie Park studios and it is also the first location that I installed a Man in the City sculpture. The next event will be the Man in the City project dedication on June 14th at the Detroit Opera House and will raise money for the Boos family YMCA’s art program.

Through donations at the door and silent auction items, The Man in the City Concert Series provides people with an affordable way to contribute to the education component of the project. The Concert Series also provides the opportunity to work with artists like Gary Grimshaw and Carl lundgren, making the connection to Detroit’s strong musical history. Both artists created their own limited edition Man in the City Poster Set and proceeds go to Children’s art programming.  Grimshaw and Lundgren created posters in the 1960s for such bands as The Who, Jimmy Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane as well as for such Detroit legends as the MC5, Iggy Pop, Grand Funk Railroad, Alice Cooper and Bob Seger- their work is really phenomenal.

Is artist Antony Gormley an inspiration for you? He has said his figurative sculptures that were placed on rooftops in New York’s purpose were, “to play with the city and people’s perceptions.” 

I actually first installed The Man in the City project on the NYC Highline in the Summer of 2010.  I stayed on 29th Street and Broadway and every morning on my way to teach a Public Art class SOHO, I would pass through Madison Square where Antony Gormley had installed his sculpture exhibit titled, “Event Horizon.” I took the group of students to see his installation and later, while we were working on the Highline exhibit, one of the kids said, “Wouldn’t it be great to install these sculptures on the rooftops.”  The idea stayed with me, and the next year I installed the Man in the City project on the rooftops of Benton Harbor, MI.

How did you link up with the City of New York and the NYC Highline Park?  

I had been following the progress of the NYC Highline since the project was approved in 2002.  Over time, I met Josh David and Robert Hammond, the founders of the Highline, and we started discussions about arts education, public art and community.  The NYC Highline itself is one of the most visually interesting locations in Manhattan, but the story of how it came into being is what makes it for me.  It’s the story of Josh and Robert not taking No for an answer and seeing their vision come through.

Do you have any other connections to New York? 

For the last five years I have been spending a lot of time in New York.  I work for a few galleries that exhibit in the Art Fairs and I also work as an art handler.  It’s a chance to spend time in New York and it has also provides me with opportunities to exhibit in places like the NYC Highline and on Governors Island. And…my roommate from college grew up in New York City and he manages an Irish Pub near Wall Street, do I really need to explain anything more about connections.


How long have you lived in Detroit? Did you grow up in Detroit or Michigan? 

I was born in Detroit and with the exception of spending all of the 1980’s in College and a few years of traveling I have been here my whole life.

Have you seen the city change in the past 5 or 10 years? How? 

I have worked in Detroit off and on for the last 25 years- and there has never been a better time to explore the city.  On a recent Tuesday night I attended Ann Delisi’s Essential Music Listening Party at the Majestic Café,  afterward I saw “They Might Be Giants” play the Majestic Theatre. Pretty much every night of the week there are now 30 events going on at anyone time.
I don’t think Detroit will never be New York- but- it is a great place to invent yourself and it is extremely affordable by comparison.”

Why do you stay in Detroit? 

It takes a long time to build a studio that I can create in the size that I would need to build large-scale sculpture.  My goal is to keep building larger sculpture, and I cannot think of a better city than Detroit to accomplish my goals. I cannot think of a better place to create- there are job shops all over the city that specialize in problem solving, and I am a big problem.

What’s next for you?

In the Fall of 2013 I have a sculpture being installed in Corktown at Roosevelt Park that will be my first permanent piece located in Detroit.  This sculpture will be my largest to date and my absolute favorite location in the city. I guarantee it will be more exciting than the Nell Carter Christmas Special.