Sunday, July 22, 2018

In the Twin Ports Public Art Isn't Just for the Birds

This blog post has two aims. The first is to share a few insights about public art in Duluth. The second is to announce a Call for Artists to participate in the Superior Storm Drain Project.

One thing Duluth is famous for is its abundance of parks and recreational activities. It's something many of us possibly take for granted. It's hard to believe that a town our size has more than 80 parks, 11,000 acres of green space, nearly 7,000 acres of city Parkland, 12 miles of paved, accessible trails, 85 miles of bike-optimized multi-use trails and 150 miles of hiking trails.

Something else you've no doubt seen but not given much thought to is the quantity of public art in our city. We even have a Statue of Liberty, designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the very same Frenchman who designed the famous torch-bearer in New York Harbor. It's a scale-replica of the original which was a gift to America from the people of France. How we ended up with this one in Duluth was a mystery to me, but this web page provides a few of the details. What's strange is how people living in Duluth can be here for decades without noticing it. I first became aware of it last year when I participated in the William A. Irvin 5K Run last year. The runners begin at the ship and proceed along the waterfront behind the DECC. When you come around the corner it's right there, nestled nestled amongst the trees.

Grandma's Marathon finishers pass Sterling Rathsack's statue each spring.
The statue featured above is probably quite familiar to all of us. Because of its prominent location as you enter the Canal Park area you really can't miss it there in front of the Caribou Coffee/Zita Pizza building. The sculpture, installed in 1992, is the work of Superior artist Sterling Rathsack. There is a totem pole feel to the design which features a squatting man with a boy on his shoulders, a seagull landing on the boy's head. It's titled Man, Child and Gull.

Like the other sculptures in the city, there is a measure of responsibility associated with the works. Someone needs to take care of them now and then. Maintenance washing, treating, sometimes painting. These and other duties fall to a handful of volunteers known as the Duluth Public Arts Commission. Public art is a responsibility, that includes keeping a status inventory as well as a maintenance regimen.

Another familiar sculpture in Canal Park is Richard Salews' Determined Mariner, also installed in 1992. The piece is cast and patinated bronze on a cast concrete base with recessed lighting. The Connecticut artist has produced many commissioned works in various parts of the country. This one is located across from Grandma's Restaurant near the entrance to Duluth's famous Lakewalk.

Superior Storm Drain Project
ON THE SUPERIOR SIDE of the St. Louis River Bay the call has gone out for artists to consider participating in the making of Storm Drain Art. The project's aim is to draw attention to the

The Storm Drain Art Project's goal is to work with artists to bring attention to storm drains and increase public understanding of the direct connection between storm drains and the nearest lake or stream through storm drain art. All painting supplies, site selection, and safety equipment will be provided by the City of Superior.

The EPA has identified stormwater as the biggest pollution threat to surface water nationwide. As stormwater flows over the ground it picks up all the pollutants in its path, including common non-point pollution such as litter, pet waste, oil and other debris. This project aims to draw attention to the role storm drains play in polluting nearby waters, and in our case this means Lake Superior, the largest freshwater body of water in the world. The City of Superior has 3,000 storms drains, for what it's worth.

THIS PROJECT HAS AN IMPORTANT DEADLINE THAT POTENTIAL ARTIST CANDIDATES SHOULD BE AWARE OF. August 1st is when your concept design should be submitted by. They are looking for 12 artists with at least two being professionals, two amateurs and two students.

If interested you'll find ALL THE DETAILS HERE. Your point person, if you have questions or need more info is Andrea Crouse. She can be reached at

EdNote: It's my understanding that only artists who live or work in Superior are eligible.

Meantime, art goes on all around you... and sometimes even beneath you! Enjoy it.

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