Home Arts Distinctive Appleton sculpture returns to public display

Distinctive Appleton sculpture returns to public display


At long last, it’s reappeared.

“Metamorphosis,” a sculpture created in tribute to Harry Houdini and once a centerpiece of Downtown Appleton, was placed in its new home on Monday after a decade outside the public eye.

It’s found a home that sets a tone for admiration. It’s in a place from which it’ll continue to draw curiosity.

The sculpture was moved to the flats along Lawe Street. It stands along the Fox River and adorns the entrance of the new trestle trail. 

Metamorphosis arrives at its new home on Monday.

Importantly, it’s a site that’s part of Houdini lore.

A nearby plaque explains that the young Ehrich Weiss nearly drowned in the Fox River in that area — an experience that triggered a fascination with escaping from water.

The picturesque site now pays tribute to two important pieces of Appleton history. It’s across the street from the replica Vulcan Street power station.

Metamorphosis was dedicated on May 25, 1985 and was the centerpiece of Houdini Plaza in its original iteration. In a place of high visibility in Downtown Appleton, it very much became a symbol of the city.

It was sculpted by Richard C. Wolter and donated to the city by Boldt Development Corp. Boldt handled the Monday re-installation.

Houdini Plaza is the site of the childhood home of the world-famous illusionist and escape artist.

The sculpture is a tribute to a signature Houdini trick in which he escaped from a trunk wrapped in chains.

Famed magician Doug Henning performed the trick with wife Debbie at the sculpture during a 1986 visit. Harry Blackstone Jr. paid a visit to the sculpture in 1988.

It’s been missed.

Houdini Plaza remains as Appleton’s most prominent public square. Yet as plans for the redeveloped plaza took shape, it was determined the sculpture would no longer fit. 

The sculpture, which is more than 14 feet tall and 4.5 tons, spent the last decade in storage as efforts continued to bring it back into daylight. 

Sculpture Valley, a Fox Valley nonprofit with an aim to place and promote public art, took the reins and was integral in keeping the stored piece on community minds.

Costs of restoration and placement were included in the trestle trail project. 

Alex Schultz, an alderman and executive director of Sculpture Valley, shot video of the installation and posted it to the organization’s Facebook page.

“It’s incredible to see it go back up,” he said.