For years, Michael Michlig has looked out onto Twin Birch Square courtyard from the windows of the Bigfork Artisans Gallery and thought that “a big fork sticking up in the air” would transform the unadorned space into “a town center, a place to meet.”
“It’s a no-brainer, really,” he said.
On Aug. 29, Michlig’s vision came to life when he, Micro-Mart owner Rodney Ernhart, and artist Dan Vigil erected a nearly 10-foot-tall steel fork in the downtown courtyard. The fork’s symbolism is multi-pronged—while it plays on the town’s name, it also represents the strong restaurant scene and local arts community.
“Bigfork is an art town, and this is public art, so it’s perfect,” Michlig said. “We’ve got folks taking family pictures in front of it and just cracking up… Everybody is getting a big kick out of it. Visitors are just going wild; locals are coming out to see it.”
Michlig predicts the fork is “going to be very iconic for the town of Bigfork,” much like the St. Louis Gateway Arch or the Paul Bunyan statue in Bemidji, Minnesota.
To create the structure, Vigil, an artist who specializes in ornamental metal work, scaled up the dimensions of a kitchen fork and used a plasma cutter to create the detailed shape. The process, which he described as simple and straightforward, took about a week. Made entirely of steel, the fork also has a powder coat. Twin Birch Square, a business association of the surrounding units, commissioned the piece for just over $1,000.
Michlig says the community’s response so far has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Sure enough, there’s a couple of grouches saying it’s cheesy, but it’s beautifully done,” he said. “It’s sculpted, it has scalloped edges. It has a beautiful contour. It’s really just a salute to a neat town like Bigfork.”