Northwoods sculptures transform Bell Museum

by Justin Costley

Students walking by the Bell Museum of Natural History might notice a change of scenery. New life-size animal sculptures and a landscape of native Minnesota trees, plants and rocks will give passers-by a small glimpse of the north woods right here at the University.
The bronze sculptures unveiled Saturday are the centerpieces of the Northwoods Plaza project that will transform the exterior of the Bell Museum into a 5,000 square foot nature setting. University President Mark Yudof and Patricia Spence, chairwoman of the Board of Regents, hosted the event.
Scott Lanyon, Bell Museum director, said the Northwoods Plaza is part of a museum initiative aimed at integrating science and art into education of the natural world.
“We believe that the traditional separation of art and science in education is counterproductive,” Lanyon said. “We want to find ways to stimulate visitors’ scientific intellect and their artistic impressions all at the same time.”
It took artist Ian Dudley more than seven years to design the sculptures that represent three wolves hunting a moose. Dudley said over the last 10 years he had noticed that people were unaware or disinterested in the museum.
“As a sculptor, I hoped to create a monumental work of art that might capture the public’s attention and transform the museum into a treasure,” Dudley said.
He also said he hopes his sculpture might remind people of their favorite natural setting. “It is my hope that the sculpture will always encourage Minnesotans to appreciate the fragile yet incredible asset they possess in their state’s natural wilderness,” Dudley said.
Spence said the sculpture garden has the potential to attract new visitors to the museum.
“This sculpture garden is a wonderful tool to help young people see and understand nature, science, art and their relationships,” she said. “The Bell Museum is sending a valuable message. Science and art are not mutually exclusive.”
Yudof said the project is especially beneficial to children.
“It sparks the interest and the curiosity of young people, inviting them to share the knowledge of the Bell Museum,” Yudof said. “This is also in keeping with our mission to reach out to the citizens of this state, in particular to our children, so that this becomes a place where they can come.”
Although the ceremony centered around the unveiling of the sculptures, the new landscaping surrounding the artwork is another major part of the Northwoods Plaza project. The landscape was designed in part by students from the University’s College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.
The Northwoods Plaza project was funded solely by private donors.
Yudof said the cooperation that was shown between University students, faculty, the Bell Museum and the private donors was instrumental in the project’s creation.
“It was a real labor of love for everybody and a great exercise in community building,” he said.