Cloquet Library brings ‘public art’ to the communityAn artists’ reception and open house is being planned at the Cloquet Public Library from 4:30-5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1, to recognize the completion of a new acrylic sculpture as well as two pieces of rock art. Both artists will be on hand to meet with the public and answer questions, and coffee and refreshments will be served. “It’s a celebration so people can come and see what our artists have done,” said Library Director Mary Lukkarila.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Wind, water, waves and wildlife – what better way to represent this area of Minnesota’s north woods? But in digging a little deeper, an artist can discover metaphors that go along with these images – thought and imagination, the “river of knowledge,” and the natural beauty the area brings to its residents. That’s the idea behind a stunning new acrylic sculpture, the work of Duluth artist Sean Elmquist, now on display outside the Cloquet Public Library.
Elmquist was commissioned by the library to create the sculpture with a grant from the Minnesota Legacy Amendment funds. According to Library Director Mary Lukkarila, the idea to commission a sculpture came after several other libraries in the Arrowhead Library System were successful in accessing legacy funds for similar works, most notably the mural that was created on the pillars of the Duluth Public Library.
“Such a work fits into our strategic plan and defines something about what we are as an organization,” said Lukkarila. “It also gives us the sort of current, modern appearance that goes along with some of the things we’ve been doing to update the library itself.”
Lukkarila said the local library put out a request for proposals from artists from the Arrowhead region interested in the project and were gratified with a wide range of results.
“They were all very different, so we had to look at how they fit into the library’s logo as well as which was the closest match to who we are and how it would look with our current library sign,” said Lukkarila.
Elmquist’s proposal stood out among all of the others, said Lukkarila, primarily because of the significance of its symbolism and how it relates to the library.
“The sculpture evokes the power of reading and its ability to transform words into material reality – with a connection to the location,” relayed Lukkarila from the rhetoric in Elmquist’s proposal. “The iconography used in the sculpture – the pages of a book, a tree, a fish, a cloud, the St. Louis River – represent Cloquet, the region and its ties to reading.”
The sculpture, crafted from acrylic sheets that are bent, cut and painted and then attached to the site by a welded steel framework, also contains scroll-like forms that extend from the library’s sign, simulating the pages of a book and representing the act of reading and the texts contained in the library as well as the area’s ties to paper making.
Elmquist chose acrylic for the sculpture for its translucency and indicated it will lend “a more nuanced, visually interesting experience than opaque materials such as steel or wood.” Acrylic is also incredibly strong and lightweight, so the work of art will be structurally sound and long-lasting as well as moveable in case of future construction or expansion at the library.
“I am curious to see how it will look in the snow,” said Lukkarila. “Each season will show it off a little differently, as well as the time of day and the backdrop of that particular season.”
Elmquist grew up in the North Shore community of Tofte in a family of
“His relatives used nets to retrieve sustenance from the water,” states his website, “and Elmquist’s work uses similar materials to create large scale ‘installation work’ designed to create a parallel symbiotic relationship between audience and art.”
The sculpture took approximately four months to complete, and it was installed on the 14th Street side of the library three weeks ago.
As a complement to the library’s newest work of art, local artist Bryan Schaap created and donated two pieces of rock art to the library. Schaap etched handprints and turtle designs into a couple of boulders that greet people as they enter the library.
“The human hand may be the most common theme in ancient rock art,” stated Schaap in his Pine Journal blog site. “It is found in rock art created over tens of thousands of years all over the world. Painted versions of the hand were created by putting the pigment on the hand and pressing the hand on the rock or placing the hand on the rock and blowing the pigment around the hand.”
Schaap said he came up with idea of the rock sculptures as a way to help divert the water runoff from the roof of the library as well as to make something attractive in that particular high-traffic location.
“We are happy to be able to add public art to the city of Cloquet,” summed up Lukkarila.