Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In praise of community sculpture walks, like the one in Mason City October 8, 2014

BRINGING ART TO THE STREETS, in essence to the general public, excites me.

Not all of us have the opportunity to tour big city art galleries or other places that showcase the creations of renowned sculptors.

Martin Eichinger of Portland, Oregon, created this graceful "Bird in the Hand" bronze sculpture valued at $14,500 and posed near the Mankato Civic Center.

Martin Eichinger of Portland, Oregon, created this graceful “Bird in the Hand” bronze sculpture valued at $14,500 and posed near the Mankato Civic Center during my visit there in 2011.

So when communities like Mankato and Bemidji, Minnesota; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Eau Claire, Wisconsin; and Mason City, Iowa, bring sculptures to the streets, I want to stand up and shout, “Thank you!”

Details define "Reading Magic," a $8,500 bronze sculpture by Julie Jones of Fort Collins, Colorado.

Details define “Reading Magic,” a $8,500 bronze sculpture by Julie Jones of Fort Collins, Colorado, displayed in the 2011 CityArt Walking Sculpture Tour in Mankato.

I’ve toured the Bemidji and Mankato outdoor sculpture collections and recently spotted several of the 33 sculptures on loan and/or permanent display as part of River City Sculptures on Parade in Mason City. The artwork is exhibited for a year before a new set of sculptures rolls into town. All of the art is for sale, so some remains permanently in the host cities.

Isn’t this just the greatest idea?

Here’s a look at some of the sculptures, and the settings in which they are placed, in Mason City:

This downtown Mason City building dwarfs a corner placed sculpture, "The Thinker," by Serge Mozhnevsky.

This downtown Mason City building, the former First National Bank, dwarfs a corner placed sculpture, “The Thinker,” by Serge Mozhnevsky. John Dillinger and other gangsters robbed the bank on March 13, 1934, escaping with about $52,000.

Directly across the street you'll find "Bruno" by artist Eric Thorsen in the Federal Avenue Plaza.

Directly across the street you’ll find “Bruno” by artist Eric Thorsen in the Federal Avenue Plaza.

The Plaza, a green space (even if it is artificial turf) in downtown Mason City, provides an ideal location for sculptures.

The Plaza, a green space (of artificial turf, cement and bricks) in downtown Mason City, provides an ideal location for sculptures.

Sculptor Martha Pettigrew's "Fish Story," featuring a grandfather and two of his grandchildren, has been purchased as a permanent part of the city's sculpture collection. The red bench was recently replaced by a gray bench.

Sculptor Martha Pettigrew’s “Fish Story,” featuring a grandfather and two of his grandchildren, has been purchased as a permanent part of the city’s sculpture collection. The red bench was recently replaced by a less distracting gray bench. The art is located in the Plaza.

Art on the Plaza extends beyond the sculptures. Look up.

Art on the Plaza extends beyond the sculptures. Look up.

The buildings themselves are art.

The buildings themselves are art.

The Plaza presents a welcoming and inviting spot to linger in the heart of downtown Mason City.

The Plaza presents a welcoming and inviting spot to linger in the heart of downtown Mason City.

Martha Pettigrew's "American Architect," a portrait of Frank Lloyd Wright, stands permanently in Central Park. The famous Prairie School style architect designed a house, hotel and bank in Mason City.

Martha Pettigrew’s “American Architect,” a portrait of Frank Lloyd Wright, stands permanently in Central Park. The famous Prairie School style architect designed a house, hotel and bank in Mason City.

The Meredith Willson Footbridge, named after "The Music Man" composer, was built in 1940 and spans Willow Creek.

The Meredith Willson Footbridge, named after “The Music Man” composer, was built in 1940 and spans Willow Creek. It is, in itself, a work of art.

"Kinetic Weather Disturbance Ensemble," a sculpture by Douglas Walker, is located at one end of the bridge. It is now part of the city's permanent sculpture collection.

“Kinetic Weather Disturbance Ensemble,” a sculpture by Douglas Walker, is located at one end of the bridge. It is now part of the city’s permanent sculpture collection.

Just another view of the long and scenic bridge. On the afternoon we visited, three deer frolicked in the creek.

Just another view of the long and scenic bridge. On the afternoon we visited, three deer frolicked in the creek.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling