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CynthiaMcKean's Studio

Join Cynthia in her garden at the 3rd Annual

Gardenz Studio Tour

A Special Project: Custom Handrail


When a car slid off the steep driveway that curved up the side of the sand dune leading to the historic cottage at the top, it took a foot or so of the driveway with it and came to a stop teetering over the edge. It was determined that the time had come to tackle the problem. It required replacing the entire road and building new treated timber walls to support and protect the road. This created a dangerous drop off of up to five feet on the downhill side of the drive. A handrail with protection to keep anyone from sliding under the rail was required.


The design of this handrail is reminiscent of art deco style from the 1920’s. It is meant to be rather flamboyant leading up to the cottage of a more reserved , yet futuristic style, designed and built by architect Dannie Hunn in 1927.


The railing has a single element of design, a three foot by 8 foot carved sheet of steel folded at the top to create a handrail. The second panel is a mirror image of the first. These two panels, one frontwards and one backwards become a unit that is repeated three times as the railing marches up the trail. At the top is a single unit by itself.

Artist's Statement

I dream . . . of the natural and built environments and how they might interact. The results may lean toward Mother Nature and/or compliment her. Many ideas frolic without particular meaning but some are serious.

I think . . . in terms of cutting through space, blocking space, and what the results might be.

I see . . . the object. Sometimes I see the space around it. Usually, it is a combination of the two.

I neglect . . . naming an abstract piece, causing viewers to make of it what they will. The piece must take on a life of it’s own. When this happens, people see things I would never have imagined.

I believe . . . steel is a marvelous medium. Strong and pliable, it speaks to me. If I work it, respect it, and treat it gently, ironically it will reward me by telling my story to others. If people walk around, touch, and occasionally climb my sculpture, I consider it a success. It means they have connected with it. It is talking to them.

I am . . . a dedicated artist who believes all of these things influence my art.

it's About Cynthia

Cynthia McKean grew up in Montana and Wyoming. The horizon there is chiseled against a sky so blue that some say it hurts their eyes. Wide open spaces go on forever. Mountains thrust upward to the sky. Colors are strong. Weather is fierce, be it hot or cold. Wildlife has adapted as has the vegetation sustaining it. People are so few that it is natural for them to become molded by these extraordinary surroundings.

It is not surprising that she chose to attend a small liberal arts school in WallaWalla, Washington called Whitman College. She graduated in 1963 with a degree in biology. For the next three years, Cynthia worked as a research assistant at the University of Oregon Dental School.

She left the work force to be a full time mother when the first of her two children was born. As she pondered during ensuing years, she began to understand that in order to champion the wonders of the Natural environment, one must also comprehend the built environment.

The University of Idaho was buried in ash in 1980 when Mount Saint Helen blew her top. On the same day, three hundred miles away, Cynthia McKean graduated with a degree in architecture. Before long, she was working for the Idaho Department of Energy giving seminars on alternative energy.

As fate would have it, in 1982 Cynthia joined the manufacturing industry in Michigan. The factory into which she poured her life had this wonderful, special place called “the weld shop”. By the mid 1990’s, she finally followed her heart to the local vocational technical center and started welding her own ideas into sculpture. In June of 1997, she began her new adventure as a sculptor.

Today she lives in Saugatuck, Michigan. Her studio, fondly referred to as “The Barn”, is down the driveway in the woods behind the house. She continues to find it all enthralling.

  • Lightest sculpture1/2 pound
  • Heaviest sculpture6 tons
  • Tallest sculpture32 feet
  • Smallest sculpture5 inches
  • Number of pieces produced450+
  • Years creating steel sculpture20
  • Years participating in ArtPrize4

Cynthia's Studio


Many wonder where it all begins…
Behind her home in Saugatuck, Michigan, Cynthia McKean works in her studio lovingly referred to as “The Barn”. Several pieces of sculpture reside in the meadow and woods surrounding the barn.


On sunny, warm days the oversized barn doors burst open letting in the breezes and feelings of Mother Nature. While on colder days, the wood stove keeps everything nice and toasty.


At the rear of the barn is the loft where the creative process takes place as is evident by models, drawings, macquettes and various other artistic supplies that litter the surroundings of the heart of the studio.

Working in the Barn

At first glance one sees projects in various stages of completion.

Table in the Barn

Cranes, lifts and welding equipment are apparent indicators of an actively working studio..

So simply put, the art of Cynthia McKean begins at her studio and finds its way to a new home to become part of another place.

cMc Design Studio

Cynthia McKean, Artist
(616) 610-0053 - Cell

cMc Designs

Public Installations

Family of Man

Family of Man Map to Location A representation of the cyclical nature of life, Family of Man can be experienced at picturesque Coughlin Park on the edge of Kalamzoo Lake in Downtown Saugatuck, Michigan

Explore this piece. Click here!

Eighth Fire

Eighth Map to Location

Paying homage to Native Nations living along the Grand River for thousands of years before the advent of European settlers, Cynthia create Eighth Fire for ArtPrize 2013.

Explore this piece. Click here!

Rising Phoenix

Rising Phoenix Map to Location A metaphor for the dire financial situation Michigan endured during the recession, find the Rising Phoenix as you drive by the meadow of Cynthia's Studio on Mason Street in Saugatuck, Michigan.

Explore this piece. Click here!

Sea Gulls

Sea Gulls Map to Location See the three vortices of SEA GULLS rising from the plaza at Wabash Landing in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Cascading Circles

Cascading Circles Map to Location Cascading Circles showcase the entrance of the United Bank of Michigan at 900 East Paris, in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Sea Gulls II

Seagulls Map to Location Sea gulls cavort at the top of the stairs at Douglas Beach on the west end of Center Street, in Douglas, Michigan.


Roari Map to Location The magical beast inspired by the combined ideas of the students of Douglas Elementary can be seen roaming along the front drive of the school, in Douglas, Michigan. A video of of "Roari's" creation from brainstorming to production can be seen below.


Paisley Map to Location The 6 foot tall sculpture is now located at the Casade Township Musuem Garden - 2839 Thornapple River Dr SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546


Studio Portfolio

Cynthia has created countless works of art from tabletop designs to projects weighing several tons. All of them are special to her in as many ways as there are projects. The pictures below have been selected for your viewing pleasure and represent a small sampling of her many beautiful pieces.

Please note, that these are not any of her "Petite" pieces. Clicking the SMALL SCALE link at the top of the portfolio will take you to an entirely different section displaying some of her small scale works. Enjoy!

Commissioning Art

Working side by side with Cynthia McKean, a recognized sculptor, to create an individual and unique piece of art is a dream come true for many clients. The process is a very personal approach to the development and fabrication of an individual sculpture that is created with a cooperative eye between the artist and client. The original and creative results will bring years of personal satisfaction and joy. Commissions usually begin when potential customers contact Cynthia with an idea or ideas about a piece they would like. Typically they already are familiar with Cynthia’s work. It begins with a discussion about how they might work together. If they are close to Saugatuck, they often tour local installations.

If the customer is interested in something similar to what Cynthia has already produced, the process tends to be rather straight forward.

If the client is looking for something entirely different then it becomes more involved. Often after one or several meetings Cynthia needs to spend time just thinking about the project. She calls this “steeping time”. Sometimes it takes a few weeks, sometimes a few months, and occasionally more than a year. She keeps in touch with the client during this process.

When an idea starts to take form, she typically does a series of drawings and/or builds a simple model to present to the customer. They review it together. If they are pleased, the sculpture may go into production, or it may continue to be refined in the same give and take fashion, perhaps with additional drawings and one or more additional models.

When the concept is ready for fabrication, it is time to create a formal order. Typically a 50% deposit of the total cost of the project officially enters the order. The balance is due upon delivery.

Total cost may include:
Price of the sculpture
Sales tax when applicable

What they say

Scott Sullivan
“When you walk around it, you see it move, and that’s what makes this 20-foot by 20-foot work a treasure.”
Scott Sullivan
Allegan County News - June 20, 2012

The Commercial Record
“Metal sculptor Cynthia McKean was in her element hosting an open house at her studio in Saugatuck as she shared her new sculptures and friendly talk. A true woman of steel who continues to share her works as a Grand Rapids ArtPrize entrant.”
The Commercial Record - December 15, 2011

Jeffrey Kacmarczyk
“Don’t miss the hidden gems of ArtPrize including Cynthia McKean’s “The Phoenix”. When you walk around it, you see it move, and that’s what makes this 20-foot work a treasure.”
Jeffrey Kacmarczyk
The Grand Rapids Press - October 4, 2011
Grand Rapids Press
“Cold, hard steel turns to putty in Cynthia McKean’s hands as she is armed with creativity and a welding torch. The artist changes flat metal into geometrically designed indoor and outdoor sculptures.”
Gina Velkly
The Grand Rapids Press

Christa Wise
“Cynthia is a treasure. She is generous with her time, attention and talents, working with students on a sculpture. Her work enabled me to see how contagious and educational this cooperative art effort can be.”
Christa Wise
The Commercial Record - January 30, 2003
Reka Jellema
“Saugatuck artist Cynthia McKean uses every muscle in her body to build her steel sculptures handling hundreds of pounds of structural steel and operating heavy machinery while crafting her large scale works. In her hands, award winning sculptures emerge.”
Reka Jellema
The Holland Sentinel - May 30, 2002
The Resorter
“Public sculpture, such as Cynthia McKean’s ‘Family of Man’ at Saugatuck’s Coghlin Park, invites the kid in us all. Climb aboard for a ride of your life.”
The Resorter - June 3, 2010
The Commercial Record
“McKean’s structural-steel garden sculptures have achieved the notice of communities and individual collectors on a national as well as regional level.”
The Commercial Record - June 19, 2008

Grand Rapids Press
“Cynthia McKean’s 800 pound ArtPrize sculpture ‘Wing’ is futuristic and cheerful and has been selected as ArtPrize Location of the Day.”
The Grand Rapids Press - September 21, 2009

Contact Cynthia

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1000 Mason Street
Saugatuck, MI 49453

  • (616) 610-0053

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