Sculptors remind us Minnesota Rocks

Nestled between the Cathedral of Saint Paul and the Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota-mined stones litter the Saint Paul College lawn. Amid construction equipment and rubble, sculptures have begun to take shape.

Through June 30 visitors can witness this historic international stone-carving symposium, titled “Minnesota Rocks!”

Fourteen sculptors from Japan, Italy, Finland, Germany, Egypt, Mexico, Zimbabwe, China and the United States have descended on the college, at the intersection of Kellogg Boulevard and Summit Avenue, to create the exhibit.

Within the group are six sculptors from Minnesota: Duane Goodwin of Bemidji, Michael Sinesio of Ely, and Craig David, Peter Morales and David Wyrick of St. Paul. David and Morales are University graduates.

The project began in 2005, when members of Public Art Saint Paul met with the St. Paul City Council to introduce the idea. In August they sent a letter to community organizations offering opportunities for stone sculptures and asking for locations to present the exhibit. More than 40 locations were proposed.

The group also requested that artists not come with preconceived notions about what they would sculpt, so as to have a “conversation” with the stone when they arrived.

Christine Podas-Larson, president of Public Art Saint Paul and a driving force behind the event, said the group’s mission of engaging artists in shaping the city experience was one of the motivations for creating the exhibit.

“This symposium helps realize our public art mission,” she said. “People can see these works in the making and it gives them insight to the interaction between the sculptor and the stone.”

Podas-Larson, who spent nearly four years planning and raising resources for the event, said the results have been well worth it.

It has brought many people together to interact and has begun a statewide civic conversation, Podas-Larson said.

“The artists have formed significant bonds with one another even though they are from around the world and face language barriers,” she said. “This offers a model to the world on how people can act in a harmonized way.”

Artists use a combination of electrical grinders and old-fashion chiseling to complete their designs. The stones, some of which started at over 6 feet tall, are carved into a variety of designs, from human forms to more abstract figures. Some assembled pieces stand over 15 feet.

The sculptors, ranging in age from 27 to 63, have been working with Minnesota media including granite, gneiss, iron, gabbro, quartzite, limestone and dolomite since May 22.

Once completed, the projected 13 final projects are set to be permanently displayed throughout St. Paul, as well as in Vadnais Heights and St. Anthony, both near the Twin Cities campus.

JoAnn Christofferson, a human resources worker who graduated from the University in 1976 and was visiting the exhibit, said the symposium gives people a chance to see an incredible project in their own backyard.

“I think it is just fascinating that St. Paul managed to get all of these renowned artists from around the world to take part in this,” Christofferson said.

Sue Banovetz, director of media and public relations for the College of Liberal Arts and mayor of Vadnais Heights, has spent time volunteering at the exhibit and said she is honored to have the work of Italian sculptor Pasquale Martini permanently placed in her city.

Quarries throughout Minnesota donated $40,000 of material, she said.

Each artist is paid $11,000, along with airfare, and are all housed at Macalester College, Christofferson said.

“The symposium features very prominent artists,” she said. “And they speak a common sculptor language, even though not all speak English.”

Lourdes Cue, the only female sculptor of the symposium, said that although she has worked in many areas of art, she originally was a stone carver – so when she was asked to participate, it was a golden opportunity she couldn’t turn down.

“The most enjoyable part of participating in this event is the sharing of different ideas, techniques and goals between people from all parts of the world,” the Mexico City native said.

The exhibit is free and open to the public from noon to 8 p.m. daily. More information is available at minnesotarocks.org.