I Am the Greatest Project and kicks off a year-long celebration including special events, public art installations, and culminates in a community postcard art exhibit in the gallery.

DETROIT, MI, February 08, 2021 /Neptune100/ — ARS Gallery ▪ Arts and Culture Center along with artist John Sauvé is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the I Am the Greatest Project and kicks off a year-long celebration including special events, public art installations, and culminates in a community postcard art exhibit in the gallery.

ARS was established on the foundation of a summer arts camp and evolved into a community Arts Center and gallery with a mission to encourage, enlighten and engage in the arts. The Art Center promotes, develops, and implements cultural, visual fine arts, and arts education to the community with a focus on at-risk youth in Benton Harbor and surrounding communities.

“Eleven years ago we saw a need for arts programming in Benton Harbor, the city was under the first emergency manager in the country, and arts programming was being drastically cut in the schools–the need for arts education could not have been greater.” said Anna Russo-Sieber ARS. “The Benton Harbor Arts District is composed of a group of individuals who care about their community. I was personally intrigued by the community reinventing itself and I wanted to be a part of it.”

In 2011 ARS and artist John Sauvé collaborated on a public art installation and launched the I Am the Greatest Project named for the famous mantra from the greatest boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali, who has ties to Southwest Michigan. The I Am the Greatest Project was established around a series of 16 sculptures installed throughout the City of Benton Harbor and the City of St Joe and creates a metaphor for working through adversity. Sauvé challenges the viewer by installing the sculptures in public spaces utilizing historical buildings and rooftops and encourages people to take notice of their surroundings. The sculptures created by Sauvé are bright orange representations of the struggle to overcome adversity, and are used to inspire youth to work through tough times.

The sculptures are not only a symbol of greatness for the area, but also inspiration for the I Am The Greatest arts-based programming. Teens learn to express themselves through introspective writing, creating, and sharing their thoughts and feelings through artistic media. The art center is a safe place and it’s this sense of security that fosters personal growth through positive interaction.

“The various classes, camps and programming are designed to teach and assist youth in accessing their strengths and determining their goals, through lessons about community art and the history of Muhammad Ali” said Anna Russo-Sieber. “During these times, we become much more than an art center and learning environment. We become a home, as meals are shared, values are modeled, theory and design are taught, and a genuine expression is encouraged.”
The I Am the Greatest project has gained broad recognition over the years including the Muhammad Ali Center who visited ARS during one of their workshops, and Marcel Parents, Education Director spoke to the youth about leadership. ARS has partnered with the School of the Arts Institute of Chicago providing scholarships to Ox-Bow.

To kick off the 10th anniversary of the I am the Greatest Project, ARS invites the community to be part of the celebration and design a postcard that will be included in an exhibit at the ARS gallery in the Fall. Postcards featuring a silhouette of the “I am the Greatest” sculpture are available at ARS Gallery for a $20 fee which includes participation in the exhibit. All proceeds go towards ARS Arts and Culture programming and help ARS continue its mission to encourage, enlighten and engage in the arts.

The ARS Gallery ▪ Arts and Culture Center is located at 147 5th Street in the Benton Harbor Arts District, and provides a community art center offering visual arts, arts education, cultural language classes, and outreach to local youth. ARS is the home of the “I Am The Greatest” project and has offered arts programming to hundreds of local youth. For more information, visit www.annarussoart.com or call ARS Gallery at 269.277.5090.

“Building Communities through Public Art”
With an active mission of building communities through public art, the Sauvé Art Foundation has raised over $2 million in contributions to community arts programming since its inception. The Sauvé Art Foundation provides opportunities for people to give back to their community through high-visibility public art projects, education programs, and events. For more information contact: [email protected].

The Muhamad Ali Center is a multicultural center located in Louisville Kentucky, with an award-winning museum dedicated to the life of Muhammed Ali. The museum captures the inspiration derived from the story of Muhammed Ali’s incredible life and the six cor3e principles that have fueled his journey. For more information, visit: www.alicenter.org.