"The Spirit of Finland" Emerges

(as the process begins from its conceptualization stages)

Sculptor Ken Valimaki, a graduate of the Fairport Harding High School Class of 1955, offered to
kenvalimakidesign a sculpture soon after the dedication of the Finnish Heritage Museum during the summer of 2007, in Fairport Harbor, Ohio. The idea had lain dormant until last spring when discussion  began among the membership about the possibility of doing more to commemorate Finnish immigrants who had settled in Fairport Harbor and its surrounding area. Ken Valimaki was contacted and was still interested in designing a sculpture for the museum.    See Sculptor's statement here.

The idea was presented to the Museum council and a number of different concept models were shown and discussed. After discussion, the "one" was chosen as the art form the group wanted.  manymodels

Another item of importance was the placement of the sculpture. The decision made was to place it right in front of the museum's massive window so it could be seen inside and out.  It will be highlighted by spotlights at night.

The concept to erect the sculpture in front of the museum was embraced by the membership and received approval from the  Fairport Harbor Village Council.  Letters of support were also received from Village officials.







The sculpture has been named the “Spirit of Finland”. In a broader sense, its purpose is to honor the innumerable achievements of Finnish immigrants who have come to the United States and through their resilience, persistence and endurance have left a lasting legacy of which successive generations of Finnish-Americans can be proud.


In the photo to the left, imagine the sculpture without the white window standing in front of the "real" window.





The Finnish Heritage Museum has an anonymous donor who will match our donations, up to $10,000.



The next series of pictures show our sculptor Ken Valimaki working with his group to produce the individual pieces which will comprise the "Spirit of Finland."  Pieces are transferred from Ken's concept model and drawn on actual sheets of aluminum.  Those pieces are then laser cut to provide sharp, exact edges.


Ken Valimaki discusses the model with members of the crew designated to carry out the task of cutting, shaping, and welding the pieces together to actually make the spirit alive.  Straight and boxed pieces are one thing, but fabricating curvilinear shapes of varying sizes is quite another.  Note:  all technical photos provided by Ken Valilmaki and Kin Yu, an associate.


Starting with six sheets of  50/52 aluminum, 5 feet by 10 feet , and 3/16 of an inch thick, the intricate work begins with discussion of the CAD pattern shapes which will be cut out using a CNC plasma cutter.


Some of the flat stock has now been cut into the respective curved shapes.  Sculptor Ken Valimaki is second from the right in the Finn Blue shirt.


While Ken keeps an ever watchful eye, the shapes begin to take formafter being "rolled" and formed by hand.  To do this step, each piece has to be rolled and re-rolled to its ultimate shape as dictated by the model and of course, Ken.


Roll and re-roll to get the right shape.


Let's stack these up.  The pile grows, the sculpture takes shape.


After the first shapings, Ken inspects the work.


Now comes another step in the process. Ken selects the pieces to be welded together to get them to resemble the shapes that Ken has shown in the "working model."  It's another day in the process.


A welder uses the most advanced welding technique to join two sections together.  He uses a process called "stitch welding" which is a bead about two to three inches long.


Practically dwarfed by the fourteen foot section, Ken and his associate hold the tallest section in an up-right position.  All four standing shapes will also be connected at the top, 


The MIG welding continues, with each section welded to its matching half.


Ken surveys the "pile" of parts which will be assembled into a work of art.


By themselves, the pieces are just pieces and need the vision of the sculptor.


The welding is painstakingly slow, but out of necessity.


The tools called web clamps, come in handy to clamp/hold together parts that are not "regular" in shape.


Leading edges are carefully inspected and ground to provide a visually pleasant, artistic brim.


The semi-circular shape suggestive of the sun and perhaps another well-known arch is held up by Ken' associate, Kin Yu.


The sixth piece of the sculpture is being welded by Bob Destefano (Engineer).


This photo shows the roughly assembled placement of "scape" with Bob Destafano and Mike Liscano.


Mike Liscano and Ken Valimaki address the critical issue of placement.


Vertical pieces set in position  with Mike Liscano, Ken Valimaki, and Bob Destafano.


Vertical pieces being set and welded together by Bob Destafano.


Vertical pieces being adjusted in place by Bob Destafano, Kin Yu, and Ken Valimaki.


Rough placement for ground pieces with Kin Yu standing backside for scale.


Mike Liscano and Artist Ken Valimaki refining and polishing the sculpture pieces for the effect that Ken wants.


Pictures to date:  July 9, 2013.   MORE pictures will be posted as they become available. 

New postings of pictures July 16, 2013

Members of the Spirit of Finland Sculpture Committee recently visited Ken Vallimaki and his associates in the Columbus studio where they all discussed various aspects of the art. Shown below (left to right) are Heikki Penttila, Lasse Hiltunen, Ken Valimaki, Ken Quiggle, and Ken Liscano.  Photos by Kin Yu.


Another view  proves to be equally interesting.

Lasse and Ken discuss sculpture finish....shiney or matte?


More discussion about finishes with Pentti Maki and Ken.


The discussion leads to critical issues involving placement into the base which is yet to be started.  The important item is distance from the building and window, restricted by the existing sidewalk.


Below is the Ken Valimaki creative team which has been together doing projects for twenty five years. 

(left to right) Ken Liscano, Ken Valimaki, and Kin YU.


The Finnish Heritage Museum Sculpture team below:  (left to right) Chairman, Pentti Maki, Lasse Hiltunen, Heikki Penttila, and Ken Quiggle.


Lasse and Ken with a sample of the aluminum alloy which has both the shiny and brushed finish.  Needed to show the rest of the committee.


The Spirit Sculpture Team meets to discuss the project.  (left to right) Linda Penttila, Ailiin Andrews, Sharon Mackey, standing: Heikki Penttia, Lasse Hiltunen, Jovette Hiltunen, Ken Quiggle, and Tim Hadden.


This picture includes our Chairman, Pentti Maki in lower left corner.


Ken Liscano uses a pneumatic grinding wheel with a very fine grit to polish the front surfaces of the sculpture.  This is the final step before re-assembly and the clear-coat finish is applied.


The sculpture is ready.  Clear coat is to be applied and delivery date is approaching. Standing behind the Spirit of Finland are from left to right:  Ken Valimaki (artist), Kin Yu, Micheal Liscano, and Bob Destefano.



Heikki Penttila, FHM's resident architect on left, and Lasse Hiltunen, FHM president, take the ceremonial first swing and breaking the concrete.  Note: they did not even make a dent in that old stuff.


The men of Concord Masonry, left to right:  Ed, George, and Bob begin the demolition of the ancient sidewalk in front of the museum.  Before the real removal can begin, a starter hole has to be broken through, which Incorporates the use of a gas powered concrete saw, an adze, a sledge, and "spud" bar.  Necessary in these operations is of course, well-toned muscles.


Bob expertly wields the bucket, dumping and arranging the load of broken concrete into and on the dumptruck to be then hauled away.


Not all the work is easy, with the idea, "let the machine do it!"  No, George has to lift the sixteen pound sledge (affectionately called a mokari in Finnish slang) and slam it down on the concrete slab to break it into smaller pieces.  This is done as Bob lifts the concrete slab slightly so that George's hammer blow can crack the slab.  The bucket cannot accommodate the full slab. 


By looking carefully at the picture below, you can see the "ORANGE" outline of the "wall to be."  It also is a guide for digging the footer.


George carefully does wall shaving, making for a smooth footer against the existing foundation of the museum.  Bob expertly scoops out the remaining clay.


FHM member, and Spirit of Finland Committee member, Ken Quiggle inspects the day's work.  The excavation is safely ensconced with barrels, safety net and pylons.  Tomorrow will see more work.


George and Ed check levels and mark the top of the cement pour on  the forms. 


Now it's TIME.  When Osborne's concrete truck rolls in with a perfect batch of foundation mix, there is NO time for anything but concrete.  Focus, focus, focus and get the job done.


Ed pushes the concrete to the corners so it levels out.


In a very, very short while, the mix has been poured and now it is leveling time.


Ed and George install short and long re-bars.  These are carefully placed so that they will actually be inside the block and brick serpentine wall.  There are many re-bars in the concrete which will hold it together (not that it was going anywhere!)  Actual brick laying begins tomorrow.  Bricks will be delivered along with a special mix of pale pink colored mortar. 



Early Friday morning, August 23, the Raymond Builder's Supply Truck from Geneva, OH arrived to unload, three different size/style of cement block, building brick, and mason's sand.  It was amazing to watch the truck get unloaded using a hand-held radio controlled device which the operator guided into the pallets and lifted, swung, and placed all of the items. 


Ed of Concord Masonry lays the first block to start the serpentine wall.  Two sets of radii have been drawn into the foundation to guide him while placing the block.   Remember, this is square block making a curved wall.  Many of the blocks had to be cut to accomplish this.


Here, Ed and George calculate the eventual height of the wall , taking into account the new brick's dimensions compared with the existing brick wall and the thickness of the mortar in between each course.


Later in the morning, the wall "snakes along" serpentine style headed north to connect to the corner of the building.  While Ed lays the block, George cuts block, makes new mortar, and delivers it, shovel by shovel to the mason's board.  Also worth mentioning, are the lateral rebar supports that were built in while the blocks were being laid.


Important to note the white PVC pipes protruding from the bottom of the wall in  five places. The pipes will relieve water from the structure to drain into the soil. 


The project rested for the weekend.  This was the last picture taken on Friday, August 23.  The serpentine wall now has three courses of block.


Monday morning saw these new developments:  the wall was sealed in with a coat of concrete with a sealer in it to prevent rainwater infiltration which will collect in the sculpture base. An asphalt based water-proofing will be applied after the concrete dries.  Also, the brick work begins to rise on top of the blockwork. 


A frontal view shows the  morning's work.


Ed Janke makes sure he fills in each cavity with mortar, to make a very strong and secure foundation.


A frontal view shows the steady progress.


Ed Janke carefully aligns each brick with its neighbor and with the brick cousins down the line.  There will be a correct triple curve in the serpentine wall.


George Guk uses a pointer to uniformly "point" the mortar between all of the bricks.


Ed Janek reaches the other end after a long day of laying both brick and block.  He said, "the most important tool here is the level." 


Ed takes a breather at day's end, with only 5 courses of brick to finish up this part of the project.  Drainage pipes and tubes are inserted into the end to provide drainage and power for lights.


On Tuesday, the rains came. The latest course of brick was quickly covered, as well as bags of mortar mix and the stacks of bricks and blocks.


Fortunately, the rains were  not severe, and limited themselves to just getting everything wet.  After that, George painted the museum wall with a waterproofing product.


The inside cavities are filled with #57 stone before the center  blocks are laid.


By afternoon, the inside block foundation, which will actually secure the sculpture was  blocked up and capped.  The inside course of brick was laid to provide a base for the brick which will "cap" the wall.


Progress for Tuesday was excellent.


Wednesday saw  both the completion of the top railing course and the center well which holds the stainless steel anchor bolts for the sculpture.


Shown here are the multiple details of anchoring the sculpture which were co-ordinated by Ken Valimaki, the artist; Heikki Pentilla, the architect; and Ed, the mason from Concord Masonry.

The next step will not take place until next week: the pouring of the concrete to create the sidewalk in front of the sculpture. 


The important and "stress-filled" Saturday, September 7 saw the box or panel truck pull up to the curb and the fun began.  Carefully backing the sculpture out of the truck, Terry Vale of Harbor Roofing, eases it out., while Ron Boyett watches.  There are men inside the truck walking the front twoards the back.


Ron Boyett and Dean of Harbor Roofing, muscle the sculpture upwards to make it stand on its base.


Spectators are plentiful while a few strong men do the heavy lifting. This picture taken by Bill Lukshaw.


Once the sculpture was on the "forks" and anchored securley with Dean's weight, Terry carefully backed up, to get a better delivery angle.


Terry Vale, ever so slowly walked the sculpture to the base.  He lifted the forks so that the sculpture could clear the "lip" of the base.  The problem here is that one slip, could send the sculpture crashing into and perhaps through the huge window. It did not and Terry was able to back away after the base slid onto the pad.


The base fit the anchor bolts perfectly, with the holes and bolts in exactly the right place.  Ron Boyett on the right slides the base backwards to make it fit.  Dean Kruk and Heikki Penttila look on.


The Artist / Sculptor Ken Valimaki did not even break a sweat. 



Dean Kruk of Harbor Roofing fastens the "SUN" onto the base.


Kin Yu, a member of the Valimaki team from Columbus applies torque to the nuts

to hold the Spirit in place.


The final operation on Saturday was to drape and cover the Spirit until September 15 for the grand unveiling.




Wrapped and covered, the Spirit awaits the masons to return to lay more concrete in front of the base.


Ed Janke and George Guk cut and lay reinforcement mesh  required in concrete sidewalks.


After even a brief rainstorm, the masons continued to lay the concrete.


Ed brushes on the finishing touch.


Wrapped and ready for the celebration. Pictures which follow were taken by Scott Curry.




This part took place in the park, so as many as possible could hear the speaker.


The second part took place in front of the Finnish Heritage Museum.


Finnish flags are flying.


Two happy Finns. Virpi Pakkala Buck and Hely Perttu in national costumes.


Pastor Pentti Maki talks to our speaker, Rev. Dr. Peter Lillback.


Dr. Lillback addresses the group.


A short biography


Dr. Lillback really  enjoyed himself while talking about spirit, sisu, and the Finns.


FHM President Lasse Hiltunen addressed the crowd.


The Parade begins.  A short walk down Third Street to the Museum.


The Crowd gathers.  The FH Police blocked off traffic for safety.  Thanks for their co-opeation.


Master of Ceremonies Lasse Hiltunen gets the second part of the celebration moving with a hearty welcome and an introduction of the dignitaries in the front row.


Rev. Pentti Maki gives introduces the Spirit of Finland Committee membes.


Heikki Penttila, our architect, introduces the Artist Ken Valimaki.


Ken Valimaki holds the original cardboard model of the sculpture and describes the process of cutting, shaping, joining, welding, and situating the aluminum pieces to the base.  As you know from the pictures above, it was a complicated process.


A short Biography


Ken Valimaki


Rev. Pentti Maki, who served as the Chairman of the Spirit of Finland Committee, and Ken Valilmaki dedicate the sculpture.


FHM Vice President Ken Quiggle gave closing comments and directions on how audience members could pour "blue" sand on top of the "white" sand in the sculpture base. 




An artsy picture taken from ground level through the boxwood planted in front of the sculpture.


Spirit of Finland


Blue sand in cups on a blue table, adorned with a blue and white bowl and Finland's blue and white flag.


The children were invited first to pour out  blue sand onto the white.


Many took part.  Here the Salonens with grandson pour blue sand.


Charles Hilston came all the way from Minnesota to take part in the ceremony.  Here he too pours blue sand.


Left to right: Rev. Pentti Maki,  Architect Heikki Penttila, Artist Ken Valimaki, and President Lasse Hiltunen.


The Spirit Committee.  Left to right:  Ken Quiggle, Ailiin Andrews, Linda McAdams, Rev. Pentti Maki, Ken Valimaki, Lasse Hiltunen, Jovette Hiltunen, Linda Penttila, Heikki Penttila, and Tim Hadden. (not pictured, Sharon O'Janpa Mackey)


After the ceremony,  the Spirit stands quietly.


Pictures are to date, through September 15, 2013

Pictures © Finnish Heritage Museum 2013.  Taken by Kin Yu, Lasse Hiltunen, Scott Curry, and Bill Lukshaw. Text by Lasse Hiltunen

If you have a question about this project, send us an email.  Please indicate  Sculpture story question in the email subject line.

The "Spirit of Finland" was unveiled on September 15, 2013 during the Fairport Harbor Community Day festival with a special ceremony.














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