Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A virtual tour of Mankato’s sculpture walk July 9, 2011

Louise Peterson of Guffey, CO. created this $20,000 bronze sculpture of a playful Great Dane titled "Tickled."


I realize that some, maybe even many, of you, do not live anywhere near Mankato, the southeastern Minnesota community where I recently viewed sidewalk sculptures.

Heck, some of you don’t even live in states bordering Minnesota. Your chances of ever seeing these 25 pieces of art in person are about zilch.

So, for those of you who will view the City Art Walking Sculpture Tour only via Minnesota Prairie Roots, I’ve pulled together one last blog post. Please read my previous two posts for more details and photos of this community art project by first clicking here and then here.

This whole concept of bringing art to the streets through a rotating sculpture tour pleases me immensely. What a grand idea. Such art adds to the vibe of a downtown, to its art, history and culture.

Thank you, Mankato, and everyone who supported this cause financially, for bringing these sculptures to southeastern Minnesota, within quick driving distance of my Faribault home.

Yours gratefully,

Audrey Kletscher Helbling at Minnesota Prairie Roots

Sioux Falls artist Darwin Wolf's $13,500 sculpture, "The Fountain of Life," references Jesus washing Peter's feet at the Passover. It emphasizes the healing, life-giving qualities of water.

"Poco a Poco" a $12,000 bronze sculpture by Pokey Park of Tucson, Arizona, highlights the tortoise, representative of wisdom in American Indian culture. The building in the background houses Number 4 American Bar & Kitchen.

"Fowl Ball" celebrates geese, ducks, turkeys and chickens in this $7,600 forged and welded weathered steel sculpture by Lee W. Badger of Hedgesville, West Virginia.

All of the sculptures are marked with informational signage.

Dee Clements of Loveland, Colorado, created the $6,000 bronze "The Farmer's Wife," one of my favorite exhibit pieces.

To fully appreciate these sculptures, you must notice the details, including the Korean woman clenching her walking stick in "The Farmer's Wife."

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

"Spirit of Energy," a $8,400 bronze by Karen Crain of LIttleton, Colorado, represents three renewable energy resources: sun, wind and water.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


A historic bank and White Buffalo Calf Woman June 23, 2011

SET ME IN FRONT of an architecturally-stunning historic building and I’m in history heaven.

Just look at the lines, the colors, the window leading, the carvings…of the Old First National Bank of Mankato building, now a Verizon Wireless Center reception hall.

I didn’t step inside the former bank, didn’t even try a door. I was content last Saturday afternoon to view the exterior with its Prairie School style architecture.

“It’s like that bank in Owatonna,” my husband said as we gawked at the building built of brick, Mankato limestone and terra cotta along Civic Center Plaza in downtown Mankato.

He was, of course, referring to Chicago architect Louis Sullivan’s “jewel box,” National Farmer’s Bank in Owatonna, a brick building with terra cotta accents, splendid for its stained glass windows, arches and other architectural details.

The Mankato building features Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired stained glass and detailed ornamentation along the roof line.

And now it also showcases a bronze sculpture of White Buffalo Calf Woman by South Dakota artists Lee Leuning and Sherri Treeby as part of Mankato’s City Art Walking Sculpture Tour.


If you peer at the woman’s face, examine her beaded moccasins and the trim on her buckskin dress and pouch, you’ll notice how the colors mimic those of the historic bank building. Whether this Native American sculpture’s placement was planned or accidental, I don’t know, but it fits seamlessly with the historical vibe of the locale, enhancing the whole art viewing experience.

The city of Mankato, apparently named after a varied translation of the Dakota word Mahkato, meaning “blue earth,” owns a place in Minnesota and national history for the mass hanging of 38 Dakota here on December 26, 1862. Three hundred warriors were accused of killing civilians and soldiers and of other crimes during the U.S.-Dakota Conflict. After a public outcry, President Abraham Lincoln commuted the sentences of all but 38. Certainly, Mankato is not proud of this moment in history. But efforts have been made to honor the Dakota at monuments in the city.

And now sculptures like White Buffalo Calf Woman also help heal and educate the public about the Native American culture. According to information on the sculpture placard, this prophetess is the only religious icon accepted by all Native American tribes. She “brings a message of healing, hope and peace among the races to all the people.”

More than just art, I also got a history lesson along a Mankato city street on a Saturday afternoon in June.

PLEASE VIEW MY JUNE 20 post for more photos and information about the Walking Sculpture Tour. Additional images will be forthcoming.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling