Tired of the usual museums, beaches, and statues of people you’ve actually heard of? When you visit a state, would you prefer to find the weird, the wacky, the wonderful, if not the downright offensive? If so, then you might appreciate this sampling of oddball sites in the great state of Michigan:
Jean Krupp’s Novelty Shop, Lennon
Billing itself as the “Lawn Ornament Capital of the U.S.,” Krupp’s does indeed have an extraordinarily large-and just plain extraordinary-collection of lawn ornaments, including all manner of realistic and fabulous animals and insects, religious figurines, trolls, aliens, and much more. Don’t miss the discount section of damaged lawn ornaments-headless animals, jockeys missing limbs, etc. Hopping around the grounds for whatever reason are dozens of semi-domesticated rabbits.
But then inside are yet more kitschy treasures, including Elvis, Jesus and country music themed clocks, paintings, and other curios. A perfect place to browse, and maybe pick up some great gifts for your hip, ironic, campy friends.
Lennon is just a few miles west of Flint, in the eastern part of the state off of Interstate 75.
Kingman Museum, Battle Creek
Kingman is a natural history museum and planetarium, located in the “cereal capital of the world.” Among its attractions are Native American artifacts, geology exhibits, paleontology exhibits, and two rare specimens of the extinct imperial woodpecker.
But most notable is its human reproduction exhibit, including various embryos and fetuses in jars, preserved from the 1930s. (And no, this is not an anti-abortion exhibit per se. For that, there’s always the fetus-in-a-giant-hand-of-God sculpture in Freemont, Michigan.)
Battle Creek is in south central Michigan, between Kalamazoo and Jackson. The Kingman Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday. Adult admission is $6; children $4.
Western Michigan University Sculpture Tour, Kalamazoo
There are plenty of odd and intriguing abstract outdoor sculptures at Western Michigan’s Gwen Frostic School of Art. Check out, for example, “The Committee,” a configuration of people engaged either in some sort of unmentionable-and acrobatic-behavior, or a spirited game of naked, three-dimensional Twister, or both.
If you prefer your sculpture more controversial than puzzling, Kalamazoo is also home to the 1940 “Fountain of the Pioneers” sculpture, depicting an Indian in full Plains headdress kneeling to an imposing white man carrying a club. The artist, Alfonso Ianelli, intended it to actually be a sympathetic portrayal of the Potowatomi Indians being forcibly run out of Michigan in the 19th century. He wrote that in his piece “the Indian is shown in posture of noble resistance.” Not everyone sees the kneeling figure as all that noble (plus the Indians in Michigan never wore big headdresses like that), so there have been protests and attempts to have the sculpture removed.
Kalamazoo is in southwestern Michigan, about forty miles north of the Indiana border.
Linda Godfrey, “Weird Wednesday: A Concrete Shang-ri-la.” Absolute Michigan.
“Michigan Attractions and Oddities.” Roadside America.
“The New Kingman Museum.” KingmanMuseum.org.
“Sculpture Tour.” Gwen Frostic School of Art.