Orpha & E.K. (Earl Kline) Lund, Lund's Scenic Garden

About the Artist/Site

When evangelists Orpha and E.K. (Earl Kline) Lund received a donation in 1944 of sixteen areas of land in Maple City, Michigan, they began a project they had long imagined: the creation of a series of painted scenes portraying the life of Jesus, installed in an outdoor setting.

The couple, which had previously painted scenery for church plays, labored for four years to clear the land and to create figures for it. They were not young when they began. E.K., a former professional magician turned ordained minister, was 45, and Orpha, who had survived a heart attack a year earlier, was nine years his senior. Summers were dedicated to felling trees and building trails; in cold-weather months, the Lunds cut figures out of fiberboard. E.K., who had learned sign painting in California, became the site's primary draftsman. Orpha filled in the sketched figures with exterior house paint.

Lund's Scenic Garden opened in August 1948 with twenty-eight stage-like scenes. (The couple later added more, to total thirty-six.) During this period Orpha also joined her husband as a minister in the United Brethren of Christ church. Although the Lunds were proud of their affiliation, Orpha made clear in a booklet she wrote about the Garden that their project was “undenominational.” In keeping with their beliefs, they charged no admission, but accepted donations. The Garden was open daily, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., from Memorial Day through the first of October.

At first the Lunds conducted tours during the day and every evening; but when the number of visitors grew into the thousands, they allowed guests to conduct self-guided daylight tours. At night, visitors could follow the artist-evangelists over a meandering, 1,400-foot sawdust-covered trail to view their “painted story of faith,” illuminated by electric lights, among stands of old hemlocks.

Orpha Lund died in 1965, but E.K. continued to maintain the Garden, opening during the summer with the assistance of family members and visiting seminarians. In 1980, when the lighting equipment failed, E.K. decided to halt evening hours rather than take on the expense of rewiring. Daylight viewing continued for seven more years. In November 1987, the artist and his family sold the property and its contents were sold at auction. Two small figures were later donated to the American Museum of Folk Art.

~Holly Metz



Related Documents

Map & Site Information


Maple City, Michigan, 49664 us
Latitude/Longitude: 44.855458 / -85.855573

Status

Non Extant

Address

Maple City, Michigan, 49664, us

Built

begun 1938

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