Agora Design Partnership | Design for Public Parks & Spaces


  • 10 feet long
  • Arcadia Creek Festival Park, Kalamazoo, Michigan
  • Year installed: 2011

Makinauk, a 10-foot-long bronze turtle, executed by sculptor Richard Light for the Kalamazoo Downtown Development Authority is located in Arcadia Creek Festival Park, also designed by Light in 2000.

Makinauk tells the Native American legend of the creation of Mackinac Island, a resort destination at the top of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. According to legend, the turtle Makinauk was swimming in the straits of Mackinac and told his friends to go down to the bottom and get some dirt. None could do it until the little muskrat went down. He was gone so long that the others thought he had drowned. Finally, he came up, and threw the dirt on the turtle’s back. At this point, the grass came up, the trees grew, and the flowers bloomed. Thus was born Mackinac Island, a major resort and tourist attraction in the State of Michigan.

The piece, which measures 10 feet long by 6 feet 4 inches wide by 4 feet 6 inches high, may be the largest turtle ever executed in bronze. It was designed and built by Kalamazoo native and internationally recognized sculptor Richard Light between 2008 and 2010. Light, a professional member of the International Sculpture Center, designed the piece using two models: one constructed in the U.S., the other in France. The piece was cast in bronze in the U.S. by Alchemist Sculpture Foundry in Kalamazoo.

Light lived in France from 2002 through 2008, where he did the large model for the piece. While there, he won the Prix de Bronze at the Exposition de la Société des Artistes Français, at the Grand Palais in Paris (2005) and the Albert Einstein Memorial, also in Paris (2009).