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Carousel Art


Jeffrey Briggs, A71, doesn’t shrink from big projects—like the pair of 5-foot-tall human feet he sculpted for Timberland Shoes—but his 28-foot-diameter carousel in Detroit’s newly revitalized Rivard Street Plaza may take the brass ring. Of the several carousels he has made for Fabricon Creations of Maryland, this one required the most prep work. Briggs spent a year in his Newburyport, Massachusetts, studio researching animals of the Detroit River and designing sculptures based on them. The carousel is also his “biggest in sheer volume,” he says: seventeen jumpers, two standers, a swan chariot, and many intricately carved panels. For fun, he threw in a mermaid and a local legend: “a snaky-looking river creature that has been photographed over the years.”

Briggs, a graduate of the joint Tufts/School of the Museum of Fine Arts program, enlisted his friend William Rogers, a trompe l’oeil painter, to apply the shimmering Art Nouveau colors and paint the scenic murals. In photo essay we glimpse the attraction in full swing and under construction.

Jeffrey Briggs carves a decorative panel from an oil-based clay.

Jeffrey Briggs prepares to enter his home studio.

A great blue heron looms over a pair of mute swans.

A frieze in the sculptor’s signature Art Nouveau style awaits a coat of paint.

River monster.



Land snail.

One of several dragonfly spacer panels.

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