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Posted: April 30, 2013 Sculpture Tour Eau Claire gets Bigger, Pricier, more Global

Sculpture unloading
Photo by Salina Heller
Crews from Royal Construction and Johnson Monument volunteered their time on Monday to unload and place several of the new sculptures of Sculpture Tour Eau Claire. This year, they can be found in the North Barstow Street area, along Water Street, and on the campus of Mayo Clinic. The rest of the sculptures will be placed on May 7th.

Sculpture Tour Eau Claire gets bigger, pricier, more global



By Andrew Dowd Leader-Telegram staff

Posted Saturday, April 20, 2013

To see article go here.


A dozen sculptures are scheduled to arrive along city sidewalks early Monday, as the Sculpture Tour Eau Claire enters its third year.

The rest of the sculptures for this year's tour will be installed May 7 along Water Street, in the North Barstow Street area and on the Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire campus, bringing a total of 30 new pieces of artwork to the city.

"This year, we really have some big sculptures that are quite extraordinary," said Sue Larson, interim tour director.

A couple of the sculptures will be about 9 feet tall, and one is slated for Water Street that stretches 13 feet into the air.

The more massive sculptures were chosen for the Water Street area - a business district near UW-Eau Claire that has shops and restaurants and probably is better known for college bars.

"We wanted to make sure we had large sturdy sculptures, not smaller delicate sculptures," Larson said.

Summer construction on South Barstow Street forced the tour to change from its usual downtown route. Water Street businesses offered to host and care for the loaned artwork, which is expected to bring more visitors for window-shopping and lunch.

"The main reason is the businesses on Water Street were very vocal for the last several years in wanting to have the sculptures there," said Sherry Mohr, the tour's founder.

She and other volunteers are headed to South Dakota this weekend with a couple of trucks to pick up sculptures from artists and organizers of other sculpture tours from different cities.

Other pieces are being shipped in, including the first overseas sculpture to be on the Eau Claire tour. A sculpture of a woman and child made by artist Cody Swanson is being shipped here from Florence, Italy.

A Canadian sculptor also is entered in the tour, but Mohr notes that many others are from Wisconsin or elsewhere in the Midwest.

"We're going to have more regional artists in our tour than ever before," she said.

Art community

Eau Claire sculptor Dan Massopust's 3-foot-tall bronze sculpture of a Friesian horse named "Gentle Strike" will be placed in front of The Livery restaurant and tavern on North Barstow Street - suitable because the building long ago was a livery and stable for horses.

Massopust's work has been on the tour before - his sculpture of a frog with a fly on its back won the people's choice award in the last tour - and has found it's brought him lots of work.

"It's just really, really valuable," he said. "I don't think I'd be nearly as busy if I didn't have my sculptures on Sculpture Tour."

The retired engineer moved to Eau Claire three years ago with the goal to teach sculpture, but found most of his artistic time taken up by creating sculptures due to the attention the tour brought to his work.

Since his work appeared on last year's tour, Mayo Clinic Health System has bought seven smaller sculptures from Massopust, and he's just finished a 15-foot-tall tree sculpture for one of their local children's wards.

Exposing their work to a large audience and potential customers is the main upside for artists who display their work on the tour.

Eau Claire pays the fewest awards and least cash to sculptors in a group of five regional cities that have similar sculpture tours, Mohr noted.

Artists who ship their work are paid $1,000, while those who meet tour volunteers get paid mileage for how far they traveled, up to $500.

"It's not a money-maker for them, at all," Mohr said.

Only the people's choice winner is guaranteed to sell their sculpture, and that's capped at $15,000.

However, Eau Claire private art collectors and philanthropists have stepped in to buy 12 of the statues displayed in the past two years, Mohr said.

"We have people, out of the blue, who love a sculpture and want to give it to a nonprofit," Mohr said.

Recently, three private donors have bought the "Hey Marylou/Blindside" sculpture of two boys playing football for the YMCA. Another group of donors are working on fundraising to buy "Jack's Story Time" for L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library.

Getting bigger

Art in this year's tour will have a higher collective price tag then the previous two years.

The 31 sculptures in the 2012 tour were valued at a total of $389,450, according to the 2012 Sculpture Tour brochure.

This year's collection of 30 sculptures is priced at about $500,000, Mohr said.

A 6-foot tall bronze sculpture of three American Indian men called "Indomitable Spirit" is the most expensive on the tour to date, priced at $50,000. Previously, the most expensive tour sculpture was $35,000, and Larson noted there are several on this year's tour that are valued in that price range.

Another change in this year's tour is a longer time frame for people to vote on their favorite sculpture.

Previously the people's choice award balloting just took place during summer, but that's being extended through the end of October this year to allow college students plenty of time to vote.

For future years, Mohr said she would like the tour to keep growing in the number of sculptures and its prominence. Her next target is getting enough display platforms and resources to display 45 sculptures.

Funding for the tour comes from businesses that pay to sponsor and host sculptures, a $2,000 contribution from the city and some local grants.

Mohr founded the local Sculpture Tour after enjoying a similar event in Sioux Falls, S.D., but has insisted that it become a community volunteer effort.

"These people took it and ran," she said.

Still, she said the tour is in "desperate need" of more volunteers to help guide organized tours, contact artists, serve as spokesmen and women, write grant requests, and do other tasks to organize the ongoing event.

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