Loring Park awarded for public art

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August 2, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott
One is a dominant force in the skyline, grandly bedecking the exterior of a parking garage used by dozens of people every day. The other is a hidden, seldom seen gem, tucked away in the vaulted ceiling of a small building in the park.

Of the four works honored in this year’s MAC Awards — an annual, city-wide search for the best public art in Minneapolis, as selected by the Minneapolis Arts Commission — two reside in the Loring Park neighborhood.

One is a luminous stained glass window, its berry colors richly lit in the afternoon sun, located in the Loring Community Arts Center, in the heart of the park. Entitled “Awakening,” the quatrefoil window honors the flora and fauna of Loring Park, featuring a swan curling its neck near cattail shoots and flowers.

The window was completed just last August. But its story goes back to 2005, to an idea of Jon Olson, former president of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. In 2005, he wanted to do something in the park to memorialize Carol Fox, a park board employee and neighborhood leader who had passed away.

Olson contacted Connie Beckers, a local stained glass artist. The plan evolved to include designer Reynaldo Diaz, who produced a colored pencil drawing to be converted into the window.

“It was a fun challenge,” Beckers says. “We created some of the glass in the kiln to give the affects of the colored pencil, which couldn’t have been done with the Tiffany-style stained glass. We wanted to maintain as much integrity to the original drawing as we could.”

Beckers invested over 1,00 hours in creating and piecing together over 3,00 glass elements.

The Friends of Loring Park Committee commissioned the piece, soliciting donations for the labor.

“Awakening” won the MAC Award for Community Involvement in Public Art.

The other MAC Award winner is the pastel checkerboard mural coating the exterior of the Loring Ramp, at Nicollet Mall and Grant St.

Entitled “Loring Water Lilies” — and loosely inspired by the famed Monet water lily oil paintings — the mural stands 10 stories tall and stretches 350 feet long.  Following a “paint-by-numbers” scheme prescribed by artist Joshua Sarantitis, craftsmen from Sunrise Painting & Wallcovering executed hundreds of squares, each 10 by 10 feet in size, in over 75 different colors.  It is the largest mural in Minneapolis.

“Loring Park Water Lilies” won the MAC Award for Integration of Public Art in Private Development. Developer Alatus LLC purchased the ramp in 2007, and the city required façade improvements as part of the deal.

Following some nudging by City Council Member Lisa Goodman, the company decided to partner with Forecast Public Art, a locally based group that commissions and publishes commentary on public art. The mural was completed last fall.

Both the stained glass window and the parking ramp will be honored at the Uptown Art Fair on the performance stage in the Old Chicago parking lot, at 2841 Hennepin Ave. on Fri., Aug. 6 at 7 p.m.