By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN The large pillars and artifacts along the west side of the Crow River in Delano have been garnering attention lately and that’s a good thing, according to Debbie DeBeer.
“People stop and watch him [artist Zoran Mojsilov] working on it,” she said.
When the sculpture is completed, it will depict several aspects of Delano’s history, such as agriculture, the railroad, and the river.
“I love history, and it’s very symbolic,” said DeBeer, one of the people who helped organize the project through the Delano Council for Art and Culture.
The pillars were transported to their new home in early April, but the idea for a community sculpture began long before.
How it all started
In May of 2009, the Delano Dream Team II, as part of the Initiative Foundation’s healthy communities program, conducted a community visioning session. All Delano residents were invited to attend and share their goals for the community.
The top “desired outcome” was identified as preserving historic downtown Delano by transforming it into an art and culture entertainment center.
To work toward this, the Delano Council for Art and Culture secured grants from the Central Minnesota Arts Board (CMAB) to create the Old Fashioned Christmas and the Heritage Fest, which have become annual cultural experiences for the community.
Meanwhile, the city of Delano hired sculptor Mojsilov to create a monument at the entrance to downtown Delano with granite from the old Delano Granite Works.
Mojsilov happened to find the pillars, and immediately saw potential for a community sculpture.
In January 2011, a proposal was brought to the Delano park board for a public art sculpture as a first piece of a possible “sculpture walk” between Highway 12 and the Crow River.
An application was submitted to CMAB to help finance the project, and Mojsilov began working as an artist in residency in May 2011.
Mojsilov presented information about himself, his art, and his career to eight classes of Delano seventh-grade art students, and demonstrated how he creates concept drawings of his sculpture ideas in charcoal.
Each student then made their own charcoal concept drawing, and collected artifacts that would be part of the sculpture. They were photographed with their artifact, and wrote a short essay about the object’s historical significance.
“Most of the artifacts are of a farming nature,” DeBeer said, adding that area families have also donated artifacts.
Adapting to change
Throughout the summer of 2011, the project was on hold, as city staff worked to determine the structural engineering required to secure the 20-foot granite column (made up of two pillars).
In September, the engineering was deemed too costly for a structure of this height, so Mojsilov redesigned it for half the height, with part of the column lying on the ground.
For awhile, the proposed sculpture site was changed to near the city hall/senior center parking lot. However, after much discussion at city council meetings, the original area between Highway 12 and the Crow River was approved, and designated for a sculpture walk.
The city then organized the soil borings and prepared the gravel base for the sculpture.
“On April 2, we were finally able to move the pillar to its new site,” DeBeer noted.
Eye of the beholder
The sculpture has drawn a mix of reactions so far.
“People tell me that they like it,” DeBeer said. “But, if people are looking at it even if they are complaining then the artist has done his job.”
When the “Spoonbridge and Cherry” was created in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, some people were opposed to that, too, she added.
Delano’s sculpture, called the “Pillar of the Community” will likely be the first of 12 distinct pieces on the sculpture walk someday.
“We’d like to see all types of different sculptures out there,” DeBeer said. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
Some people have been a little too fond of the new sculpture’s artifacts, however.
“I know for sure that we’re missing two wagon wheels,” DeBeer said.
Preserving Delano’s heritage
There is no set completion date, since Mojsilov has been working on the project in between his other projects, including a sculpture at 26th and Nicollet in Minneapolis.
Ultimately, the Delano sculpture will have some artifacts embedded into the pillars, and others tied around it with metal rods.
Typically, Mojsilov’s work is between $40,000 and $75,000, but he was commissioned for the Delano sculpture at a substantially lower rate.
The majority of funding was secured by the Central Minnesota Arts Board (CMAB), through the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.
The amendment, which was passed by Minnesota voters in 2008, increases the state sales tax by three-eighths of one percent to support clean water, outdoor heritage, parks/trails, and arts/culture.
Nearly 20 percent of the revenue from the increase is dedicated to supporting arts, arts education, and arts access, and to preserve Minnesota’s history and cultural heritage.
“In a roundabout way it is taxpayer dollars, but it is a way to bring it back into our community,” DeBeer said. “It’s bringing that money back into Delano otherwise, it goes somewhere else.”
The remaining project cost was funded by the Delano Dream Team II, the Delano-Franklin Township Area Historical Society, and the Delano Foundation.
In the future, the historical society plans to add signage for the sculpture walk, with a QR code people can scan to get detailed information about the each artifact online.