The Story of Parsifal the SteamPig- The Next Chapter

•August 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Our new site is up for our current project at We have finished the scale model, at a size about 9′ long. The full scale build is underway.

We see many parallels with the The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 and what it did for the city of Chicago, and Artprize, for what it is doing for the city of Grand Rapids. Parsifal’s Story begins during this exhibition.


The SteamPig Experiment

•June 27, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The pig has been part of the human condition for at least nine millennia, possibly more. It appears in religion, in folklore, in literature. Yet in spite of, or perhaps because of this kinship, our relationship with the pig is dynamic, even troubled. The Celts revered them with their swine god Moccus; the ancient Greeks told of men turning into them. We use their name as a term of derision and don’t notice the irony. A sloppy person is a “dirty pig,” even though pigs are so clean they won’t defecate in their barnyard homes. A person who eats too much is a “pig,” even though we turn every ounce of swine into food. Some pigs disturb, like red-eyed “Jodie” of the Amityville Horror and the decapitated boar’s head in Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Yet many others delight, like Wilbur, Porky, Piglet, Miss Piggy and Babe. Orwell used them to great allegorical effect in Animal Farm. And somewhere in this tapestry is Churchill’s famous observation: “Dogs look up to man. Cats look down to man. Pigs look us straight in the eye and see an equal.”

Now comes a great pig, unknown until ArtPrize, and ready to take its place in the cultural cannon. The story of Parsifal is the story of a dream, failure, and fulfillment. It begins in the mind of Parsifal’s mysterious creator, Dr. Hammond VanOchre, a forgotten engineering genius of the late 19th century. Most of what is known about him comes from yellowed, fragile papers stored at the British Library, which keeps records of the Royal Indian Engineering College from the time of its founding near Windsor in 1870 until it moved to India in 1906.
VanOchre was a prized student until he came afoul of a disagreeable professor. Afflicted with some kind of speech impediment (a stutter? a lisp? we don’t know), VanOchre made up for his reluctance to speak publicly by his prodigious writing.

more to follow

Mardi Gras at the Zoo

•June 9, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Friday, June 11, 2010 7:00-11:00pm  John Ball Zoo Society presents

Mardi Gras in June at the Zoo. Cash Bar, Dancing to the music of Montage, Silent Auction & Cajun strolling supper and more… Check out Behind the Scenes and Mighty Mike and help keep John Ball Zoo accessible and affordable. more info:

Nessie Gets Permanent Home at John Ball Park Pond

•May 17, 2010 • 1 Comment

Grand Rapids–“Nessie on the Grand,” one of the more intriguing entries in last year’s ArtPrize competition, will soon be entertaining visitors at her new home in the pond in front of John Ball Park Zoo. Nessie’s home features a walk-out viewing deck and an information kiosk.

The 18-foot high, 100-foot long creature with sparkling LED eyes and body was originally located in the Grand River near the Blue Bridge by the GVSU Eberhard Building. Nessie got her feet wet at the Zoo site following her top ten showing in ArtPrize last fall but her delicate structural foam skin was threatened by the elements. She was recently dry-docked for some minor repairs and a makeover. A protective polyurea coating was added and a fresh look provided by local painter Michael Knoll.

Nessie’s extended lease on life comes courtesy of  the Zoo board and staff and a group of donors that include the BAI (Bea Aldrink Idema) Family Foundation, Fifth Third Private Banking, and Mirador Family Wealth Advisors.

Nessie is the production of  “The Nessie Project,” a collaborative idea six years in the making shared by local artists and designers Richard App, Thomas Birks, Joachim Jensen, and David Valdiserri. The original plan was to build and place a much smaller version in Reeds Lake under cover of night. The project didn’t gain traction, however, until ArtPrize provided inspiration.

Nessie was conceived via 3-D computer design. The project build was completed over a 17-day stretch. Her launch required approval from the city, county, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).


•May 3, 2010 • 1 Comment

Update: We have moved Nessie from the pond to a dry dock. She will spend the next couple weeks drying out & then we start the rehab process. Thanks again to everyone at the zoo, the public support and the kind generosity of the folks that have offered her shelter… and a future here in the city where she was created.

Nessie will be returning to her home at John Ball Park Zoo with a newer, thicker skin for long-term exposure!


•December 5, 2009 • 8 Comments

nessie project – art prize 2009

Well, the whole ebay thing was a bit of a wash… how do you try to sell a ‘100 long, 5 piece, stylized loch ness monster? What the ebay thing did do was to generate a great deal of interest in private parties coming forward to find a way to keep her at the zoo. We hope to have some more information to report in regards to her status soon. Thanks again to Bert and the crew at the zoo for your support and patience and to the people who have shown interest in keeping her in the city she was created for. The GRAM is hosting a casual forum on Friday, the 8th of January… so stop on by if you find yourselves downtown around 7:00pm.

Nessie at the Zoo

Nessie at the John Ball Zoo Today

Nessie looks on as the Zoo holds a fundraiser for the animals today. The zoo has raised over $50,000 to help offset budget cuts this year.

Although the zoo will be closing December 7th for the winter, you can still make donations to John Ball Zoo by visiting their website.


•October 24, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Picture 1Okay, long time between posts, sorry, we’ve all been busy trying to figure out what to do with the big fish. The MDEQ permit has allowed us a little grace period to coordinate the removal of the beast from the grand. Thanks to Luis and José for their support. We are looking at the middle of next week(Oct.26-30) to have her hoisted out of the river and transported to the pond at John Ball Park Zoo. She will rest there for about a month before we need to stage her for winter hibernation. Blandford Nature Center has shown some interest in possibly putting her up in the spring, but as of this writing we don’t have anything concrete as to where she will end up after the zoo tour. Big thanks to everyone who has shown us the love and admiration for our work. We’ll keep you posted as we try to find the girl a pond of her own. peace.