Carousel at Grand Rapids Public Museum gets makeover

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — You may have noticed something is missing if you walk along the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids.

The Cook Carousel Pavilion at the Grand Rapids Public Museum is empty because the 1928 Spillman Carousel is getting a makeover.

With 50 animals, two chariots, a band organ and tons of moving pieces, this glow-up is quite a tall order.

“They stopped making wood carousels like this in the 30s, so this is one of the last ones,” said Stevie Hornyak, an exhibit specialist at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.

Growing up in West Michigan, Hornyak used to ride this carousel.

After going off to school in Chicago, she brought her art skills home and is putting them to work at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.

“This is where the magic happens at the museum. A lot of people don’t know that the museum has the in-house talent that works on our exhibits like this,” said Kate Kocienski, vice president of marketing at the museum.

Behind the exhibits and displays are the rooms and the people that make the museum come alive.

“It was time, it’s a 90-plus-year-old artifact, for us to give the artifact a little upgrade. Much needed mechanical and safety upgrades as well as to restore all of our carousel animals,” Kocienski said.

Kocienski says right before the pandemic hit, the carousel was taken offline.

“I think people have noticed that the carousel is missing from the iconic pavilion over the Grand River. And it’s coming back. It will be back,” Kocienski said.

In fact, the plan is to have the carousel back up sometime in 2021, but not before a lot of work is done to it.

“That horse over there, I think we were at 200 hours plus. This one, I haven’t even added up the hours yet, but I’ve been working on it, just the painting since … February,” Hornyak said as she painted a giraffe.

Stripped, sanded, primed and repainted — Hornyak is painting the giraffe like the reticulated giraffes at Binder Park Zoo.

“I wanted children to be able to recognize it right away and I thought it would be really fun for them,” Hornyak said.

When the carousel returns, it will have upgrades for the hearing and visually impaired, bilingual safety instructions and a new entrance and exit.

“You want art to be accessible. And just to continue with the museum trying to make everything accessible to everybody. That’s what we’re trying to do,” Hornyak said.

It’s no surprise in the city that brought you ArtPrize that creative minds can make things go-round.

“It’s really amazing to do something where your artwork is seen and people can enjoy it. And it’s really out there. And that’s the joy of working at the museum,” Hornyak said.

Many of the mechanical pieces of the carousel have been sent to an outside company in Ohio called Carousels and Carvings.

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