Baker College of Allen Park Acquires “Rusty”

January 11, 2012

ArtPrize's Rusty

Baker College of Allen Park has acquired a large piece of art in support of a local artist and art in public places. Weighing in at approximately 3,000 pounds, “Rusty” is a larger-than-life dog that now adorns a green space on Baker’s Allen Park campus, standing between classroom buildings and Outer Drive.

Rusty is the creation of Ritch Branstrom, a “found object specialist” who entered Rusty in this year’s ArtPrize competition in Grand Rapids. The entry placed 5th out of 1,582 competitors. The dog stands 12 feet high and is 19 feet long, tip to tail. Rusty was named by Branstrom’s two children, AnnaBella and Ellery.

Baker College of Allen Park officials had been actively searching for a piece of art for its campus and discovered Rusty at ArtPrize.

“When Ritch explained the symbolism and make-up of Rusty, we decided he was the perfect fit for this area and our campus,” said Aaron J. Maike, Baker College of Allen Park president.

The starting point of the project was a “dog-legged” maple tree that is the hind right leg.

“I prefer utilizing pre-existing shapes, and using trees for legs was perfect,” said Branstrom. “It made sense, as dogs and trees go hand-in hand.”

The majority of the sheet metal in the rest of the piece is old automobile parts, some dating back to the 1930s.

“As Ritch explained it,” said Maike, “Rusty is a marriage between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. The trees are symbolic of the north and the auto parts symbolize southeastern Michigan – the auto capital of the world.”

Branstrom says he tends to look at the material for shape, but also considers its original use and social connotations for the best possible application.

“For example, dogs are somewhat messy creatures that one has to clean up after,” said Branstrom. “So it’s fitting that Rusty’s rump is comprised mostly of shovels, wheel barrels and chutes.”

Branstrom also described the diorama in Rusty’s belly.

“This is a self portrait of sorts, dealing with issues of loyalty and trust,” said Branstrom. “I was able to utilize the concept of a dog, which has a rich history and interaction with the automobile. To make a dog out of auto parts puts a twist on things, but to use the dog as a vehicle to express myself and display some very personal work within its belly really twists it more. It is also somewhat ironic that Rusty has ended up close to the big Uniroyal tire. That was one of my favorite landmarks as a child growing up in Taylor. It left a lasting impression on me.”

To see Rusty in person, visit the Baker College of Allen Park campus at 4500 Enterprise Drive, at the corner of Enterprise and Outer Drive in Allen Park.

To discover more about Ritch Branstrom, visit his website at

The Baker College System