Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Mankato’s emerging massive mural represents diversity & more November 18, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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THE ARTWORK CAUGHT ME by surprise as I looked across the Minnesota River toward the grain towers dominating the riverside skyline in Old Town Mankato.


One of many sculptures in Mankato and North Mankato that change yearly as part of the city’s sculpture walk.


Yet, the presence of an evolving mural in this arts-centric southern Minnesota city didn’t surprise me. Mankato is a community rich in public art from poetry to sculptures. It is one of the qualities which draws me back to this place where I graduated from college in 1978 with a degree in mass communications and a minor in English.


My poem, River Stories, attached to a railing along the Minnesota River Trail. In the background are the Ardent Mills silos and the bridge from which I photographed the in-progress mural.


This time I arrived in town to view my latest poem selected as part of The Mankato Poetry Walk & Ride. Spotting the in-progress mural on the 135-foot high Ardent Mills grain silos was a bonus find. I snapped a few quick frames while crossing the Minnesota River bridge and then while heading onto U.S. Highway 169. Only too late did I notice public viewing areas along the roadway.



Upon my arrival home, I researched the $250,000 project by Australian artist Guido van Helten. Although specifics of the mural design are elusive, the art will represent diversity and more. I saw that in the image of a young Dakota boy already painted onto the towering canvas. This region holds a rich Native Peoples heritage, making the art particularly powerful.


“Forgive Everyone Everything” themes this art in Reconciliation Park. Names of the 38 Dakota who were hung at this site in 1862 are inscribed thereon along with a prayer and a poem.


Having grown up some 80 miles to the west, in a region between the Upper and Lower Sioux Indian Communities, I’m aware of the strong Dakota history and also of The U.S.-Dakota Conflict of 1862. Within blocks of the Ardent Mills silos, Reconciliation Park honors 38 Dakota tried and hung by the U.S. government following that war. The healing continues.



This latest public art represents so much—history, culture, diversity and a coming together of peoples. And today, more than ever, we need that sense of community, of understanding that no matter our backgrounds or the color of our skin or our history, we are simply people who need one another.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


12 Responses to “Mankato’s emerging massive mural represents diversity & more”

  1. valeriebollinger Says:

    I’ll have to take a closer look at Mankato sometime. We rode in the River Ramble this fall but otherwise we don’t get to Mankato.

    • You definitely should. Do the downtown Sculpture Walk and look for the Poetry Walk signs and other art. If you’re a fan of the Betsy-Tacy books my Maud Hart Lovelace, stop at the public library and/or tour the childhood home of the author and her friend. Also visit Sibley Park, one of my favorite parks.

  2. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    Yes, well said my friend, “we simply are people who need each other”. The giant Mural is amazing, it will be fun to see it’s completion…we may have to take a little road trip that way. Fun fact: Rick also graduated from MSU

    • I’m excited to see the completed mural also. The project is expected to take eight weeks, so I read.

      I didn’t know Rick also graduated from MSU. I attended Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato my first two years before transferring to MSU. At the time, Bethany was just a two-year junior college.

  3. Susan Ready Says:

    This mural is indeed amazing and looks like quite a challenge to paint especially with so many curved surfaces. And to have your poem displayed on a railing in such a prominent spot is quite affirming to your poetic talents.

  4. Brian Says:

    I have to admit I’m conflicted by the mural and other attempts to recognize the previous native culture in such a sensitive location. I’ve been to Wounded Knee, the Black Hills, and the Killdeer Mountain Battlefield to name a few. Sensitive areas that remind the Lakota/Dakota of what once was and the result. I’m the oldest of the 5th generation to live on a Dakota reservation in North Dakota.

    • It’s interesting to hear your perspective. So thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings.

      The artist worked closely with the Dakota in developing this mural. Likewise for Reconciliation Park. I’ve observed great respect and sensitivity among those involved in any such projects in Mankato.

  5. Another really fun installation of art. You know I love these so much.

  6. Missy’s Håndarbeid (Missy’s Crafty Mess) Says:

    Wow what a beautiful mural! Perfectly fitting for this area of the country.

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