First sculpture of Art Walk Albert Lea unveiled

Published 8:56 pm Wednesday, August 2, 2023

The first sculpture to be displayed as part of Art Walk Albert Lea was unveiled Wednesday at Fountain Lake Park.

Albert Lea had never had an art sculpture walk, though other neighboring communities — including Clear Lake, Red Wing and Mankato — had something similar.

Holly Babcock, executive director of the Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau as well as the Albert Lea Main Street Program, which oversees Art Walk Albert Lea, described the walk as public art being installed in areas visible for both motorists and pedestrians. And because they’ll be installed in a specific area, it will hopefully encourage people to walk from one piece to the next.

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Though there will be one stationary piece at New Denmark Park starting later this year, it’s her hope the other pieces in the art sculpture walk will be refreshed next year after a 12-month run.

Babcock described the art walk as “a dream” of hers since 2017.

According to Babcock, 11 stones are currently installed around the Fountain Lake path walk as well as downtown, though only artist Charlie Graham’s piece has been installed.

Other pieces on Broadway will include one near the Albert Lea Art Center and another by the Freeborn County Arts Initiative. The other eight pieces will be around Fountain Lake on the walking path from New Denmark Park to Edgewater Park.

By doing this, she hoped to get more people involved in the community and let them feel like they had a stake in the area.

“It’s no different than buying a home or renting an apartment, having nothing on your walls,” she said. “Art is kind of that solidifier of having something that you look at and feel a certain way about it. I think this is a really great way to get a bunch of people involved and feel like they’re decorating the walls of our community.”

Her plan is to have an interactive website up at some point once all the pieces are installed.

Babcock hopes to have the rest of the pieces installed by the end of the season. She’d also like to provide artist compensation by auctioning off the pieces. It’s her hope to have 20 pieces up by the end of 2025.

The first piece unveiled Wednesday was “Graceful Brokenness” by Graham, a new artist from Wells and founder of More Than You Know Metal Art.

“I was doing some work in town and stopped at the Albert Lea Art Center to just get some information about displaying some art, and then they directed me over to the Main Street program,” he said.

His first goal in creating the piece was having something interesting for viewers to look upon.

“The thought is someone being blown backwards but still taking a step forward,” he said,

It’s his goal that people can gain perseverance — as well as enjoyment — from the 14 gauge stainless steel piece, which weighed between 250 and 300 pounds.

Julia Thompson is the board president for the Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau and was at the unveiling.

“I’ve been to other towns and communities where they’ve had art all over, and I love it,” she said. “I’m just glad Albert Lea gets to be a part of that doing something similar.”

It’s her hope the art walk will also encourage more visitors to Albert Lea.

Information for each piece, how to purchase, instructions on how to sponsor public art projects and how to participate in the walk, is available at

“I know a lot of people have been hesitant,” Babcock said. “They want to wait until the art sculptures are up and then maybe submit a submission for the next round.

“I would just urge people if they’re looking to get involved and to have an art submission and to do it now.”

Besides learning about the artists and sculptures and observing it, people can take selfies with them as well.

An open call for artists started this summer and is still open for anyone interested. The only criteria was that it could weather Minnesota seasons and wasn’t physically harmful. Some of the spaces are limited by size.

“Nothing vulgar, nothing violent, that sort of thing,” she said. “It’s pretty open.”