City officials and community celebrates the return and unveiling of beloved Palmer Park sculpture


Councilmember Angela Whitfield-Calloway and partnering organizations celebrated the renewal and unveiling of a Palmer Park returning sculpture, "Ascension" by Barry Lehr.

People for Palmer Park President Stacy Varner expressed that the returning sculpture symbolizes the park in many ways. Like much of Palmer Park, it suffered a decline since its installation in 1977, and for nearly a decade, it was hidden from the public eye. Wednesday, as a theme of restoration fills the air at Palmer Park with the nearby Lake Frances & Witherell Woods projects, "Ascension" is returning, reminding the community that what has fallen can rise again.

"We are delighted to have the Ascension Sculpture back home at Palmer Park," explained Varner. "This sculpture is a wonderful example of why people love this park. We are a family park, one for all to enjoy. A park that provides not only options in recreational sports but also one that now has programs and events for those that enjoy the arts, thanks to the hard work of the volunteers of the non-profit organization, People for Palmer Park."

The Ascension statute unveiling is the latest citywide effort to bring more public art into city parks. In early May, Riverside Park unveiled a striking 42-foot sculpture, The “Path of Life,” by Detroit artists using pieces from the Joe Louis Arena. Later this summer, the city is scheduled to announce another public art work in Viola Liuzzo Park. 

Public art plays a vital role in beautifying Detroit as part of Mayor Duggan’s Blight to Beauty vision for the city. From the sculptures to the artists, the impact of artful place making is seen by residents and visitors throughout our city parks. 

About the Design:

Barry Lehr created the sculpture as part of his work in the MFA program at the University of Michigan.

Lehr said the unique sculpture is made of three identical curved panels offset on a vertical support shaft. Initially, the panels were set on internal bearings, allowing them to rotate individually in the wind. However, the offset would create some variability in the relationship between the parts and offer changing views and configurations as the panels turned. Later, the sculpture was redesigned after the parks department required that the panels be stationary for safety reasons.

"Being selected and installing my work in Palmer Park was truly an honor and a high point in my artistic life,” said Lehr.

City officials and contributing artist unveils the newly restored "Ascension" sculpture to the public.
City officials and contributing artist unveils the newly restored "Ascension" sculpture to the public.