Lunchtime Tourist

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May 10, 2004 // UPDATED 1:33 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Linda Koutsky
Linda Koutsky

Elliot Offner's bronze fountain near 915 Nicollet Mall

It's pretty safe to guess that winter's over, but spring hasn't really arrived until the fountains on Nicollet Mall come back to life. Elliot Offner's bronze trio of birds was installed in 1992 as one of eight pieces of public art that dot Downtown's pedestrian thoroughfare.

Massachusetts artist Elliot Offner is known for his large cast-bronze sculptures, many of which feature avian creatures.

New York City's Forum Gallery represents Offner's work and compares his casting techniques to those of St. Paul's internationally known artist Paul Manship (see giant urns at Accenture Tower, 333 S. 7th St.). Born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1931, Offner earned both a bachelor and masters of fine arts from Yale University.

In addition to his many awards, exhibitions and private commissions, Offner has been a professor in sculpture and printmaking at Smith College since 1974.

"Great Blue Heron, Loon and Sage Grouse" was commissioned by the city during the mall's beautification program. Large-scale bronze birds are shown resting, stretching and in-flight over rough granite boulders.

Of his work the artist says, "I create sculpture that is reverential and evokes a sense of grandness and beauty, and spirituality through art that speaks of nature but is not nature."

And just when you think a spiritual wildlife fountain would be free from controversy, hold on. A disappointed Minnesota ornithologist wrote a letter to the Star Tribune noting that sage grouse are not native to our state. Well, this artist must have known that Minneapolis always welcomes its visitors.

SCAVENGER HUNT ANSWER: The May 3-9 column described the Masonic Temple, now the Hennepin Center for the Arts, at 528 Hennepin Ave. S. Designed by Minneapolis's own architectural duo Long and Kees, the temple was dedicated Sept. 4, 1888. Look for the firm's signature, an interlocking L and K, near the front door.

Windowed offices surrounded large Masonic meeting rooms where groups from throughout the Twin Cities once met in secret ceremonies. Those spaces easily converted to dance and theater spaces in a 1979 conversion to Hennepin Center for the Arts.

LUNCH TIP: Take your pick of many sidewalk cafes near this week's fountain destination and bask in spring's sun.

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