Sparking curiosity, discussion in Art Walk

Published 9:00 am Saturday, February 24, 2024

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Over the past six months, Art Walk Albert Lea’s Sculpture Walk is filling up with a variety of art pieces from artists across the region.

As of the end of December, organizers had installed eight sculptures around the community, with the first being unveiled in August.

That sculpture, titled “Graceful Brokenness,” was created by Charlie Graham, a new artist from Wells and founder of More Than You Know Metal Art.

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According to his artist statement on the Art Walk Albert Lea website, Graham has worked in a custom fabrication shop in Waldorf repairing agricultural equipment and custom projects for the last nine years and has worked his way up to professional welding without any prior experience or schooling.

He said he has enjoyed making gifts and functional everyday items from pieces of trees or metal since he was a teen.

The website states the sculpture represents a person who is heavily burdened and blown backward but who is still taking a step forward.

“The sculpture has jagged edges, indents, points sticking out and seams that don’t meet up,” the site states. “Each piece is unique. As each section of life takes place, some are more rough or leave us with dents. As my life is formed and moves, I sometimes feel like I’m being hit by a hammer and shaped, then as that piece of life is welded in place and a new section is started, an image is formed. In my hardest days I complain and yell out, but I also hold onto God’s promises and trust that he knows what he’s doing and that he has a plan for me.”

Graham also has a second piece in the walk called “Unfold,” featuring a series of four white triangles of different sizes one on top of another.

Here is more information about the remaining sculptures in the walk and their creators:

Bill Hose demonstrates how to interact with his sculpture “Paddle — Always paddle, never just go with the flow” at Brookside Park near the boat landing. Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea Tribune

“Paddle — Always paddle, never just go with the flow” by Bill Howe

Albert Lean Bill Howe said he has always been one to do art projects and photography, so when he saw the call for art for the Sculpture Walk, he thought it would be a good chance to exemplify the lakes and all that people do to try to improve them.

Howe himself has been a major advocate for the lakes and part of numerous efforts, including the establishment of the Shell Rock River State Water Trail and the creation of a self-rental paddle sport system with kayaks and stand-up paddle boards that has since grown to six states. He also has ice fishing rentals and bike rentals.

In addition, he has helped bring the idea forward for the Bridgeport Marina, a dock intended to provide city residents and visitors access to the lake on Bridge Avenue across from Walgreens and between the dam and a short row of residential houses.

“I’ve tried to keep the area more excited about this resource,” he said of the lakes.

Howe said he wanted to create a sculpture that represented the area, and he designed it to be interactive, too.

The stainless steel sculpture, installed near the Brookside Boat Landing — is set up so people can feel like they’re out on a canoe or kayak paddling through the water.

“Given the choice, I choose to be a dragon” by Chris Harveaux. Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea Tribune

Chris Harveaux stands next to his piece in downtown Albert Lea near the Albert Lea Art Center. Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea Tribune

“Given the choice, I choose to be a dragon” by Chris Harveaux

Chris Harveaux, who works full time as a firefighter for the city of Albert Lea, has always had an interest in knights.

When he bought a house some time ago, he thought it would be neat to have a suit of medieval armor in the corner of one of the rooms.

Not able to afford a professional one already made, he set out to find some patterns to make one himself and has been hooked ever since.

He posted his finished product on a reenactment forum and people began contacting him from all over the country.

So in 2001, he opened his shop out of his garage and has since sold armor all over the world. He said he is known for his gauntlets — or hand armor.

Harveaux said he saw the request for sculptures through Art Walk Albert Lea and thought his work would meet all the criteria — it could survive winter, be a fun project and be a way to give back to the community.

For this he decided to create a scaled-down horse armor out of stainless steel and brass.

When creating his art, he said he first makes a pattern out of cardboard and then cuts out all of the metal by hand using a shear. He then sands or files all of the edges and uses a hammer and chisels to shape the pieces before they are riveted together.

“I think it’s fun,” Harveaux said. “I’m hoping kids see it and it sparks imagination.”

Thought it is armor for a horse, he hopes it will evoke imagery of a dragon.

The piece is downtown near the Albert Lea Art Center on Broadway.

“Wind Watchers” by Larry Peterson

“Wind Watchers” by Larry Peterson

A retired instructor for Riverland Community College’s collision repair program, Larry Peterson is used to putting parts together — in fact, he said welding is second nature for him.

A few years ago, after hearing about the Bucket of Junk Contest at the Freeborn County Fair, his wife encouraged him to try it out, so he did and won second place.

“Wind Watchers” by Larry Peterson

The contest gives each participant the same bucket full of scrap metal — what some may deem junk — and asks them to turn it into something new.

Participants can paint the pieces, weld them and even cut them, but the entrants must use every piece originally provided.

“You get the bucket of junk, and you just have to use your imagination,” Peterson said.

He has gone on to participate two more years, and has won second place each year. One year, he made a carousel that when turned would move horses up and down; another year he made a dinosaur with a long spiky tail.

This year, he made three birds — a male, female and baby bird — that he said some people have called road runners and that spin in the wind.

When he received a call that Art Walk Albert Lea wanted to use the newest piece in the sculpture walk, he said at first he thought it was a joke.

“I just enjoy trying to imagine where I can use the pieces and what I can make out of it and still make it appealing,” Peterson said.

The creation is at the intersection of Grace Street and Lakeview Boulevard.

Snail by Keith Dorn of Dorn’s Designs

“Snail” by Keith Dorn of Dorn’s Designs

Keith Dorn, who lives south of Mankato, said his business, Dorn’s Designs, started “accidentally” on its own.

Dorn said he grew up on a hobby farm and was a maintenance man for many years, learning to fix and troubleshoot anything and everything.

Keith Dorn of Dorn’s Designs went full-time with his metal art business three years ago. Provided

He also used to be huge into Halloween and would make decor and gadgets that were motion-activated. He started cutting jack-o-lantern faces into empty liquid propane tanks.

In 2014, he started filling people’s requests for metal art, and three years ago last July, he took his company full-time, creating one-of-a-kind handmade sculptures created from scrap metal.

“It opens up another world for me,” Dorn said, noting he ships hundreds of pieces every year all over the country and has even sent a piece to Japan.

Shane Koepke, one of the organizers of Albert Lea’s Sculpture Walk, found Dorn and his work at an art show in Austin, and picked up one of the pieces for the walk.

Dorn said he is honored to have his work part of Albert Lea’s walk and noted he has work in the Mankato CityArt Walking Sculpture Tour as well.

“I hope it takes off like a rocket,” he said. “It’s so cool to see all the people who come to see that stuff or happen to walk by.”