Lunchtime tourist

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November 29, 2004 // UPDATED 4:48 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Linda Koutsky
Linda Koutsky

Michael Emmons sculptures

15 S. 5th St., skyway level

There are good things and bad things about our skyway system. In other cities, the second level holds merely offices, but here it flourishes with pedestrians and commercial business. As cold weather approaches, our habitrail system has become active with scurrying office workers.

Tucked in the midst of one Downtown block is a discreet second-floor lobby complete with natural light, open space and public art. From the street you'd never know it was there.

The owner of the 12-story building has an office right in the building and is fond of art. His personal collection graces walls in his office and has spread into the building's hallways and lobbies.

Two steel wall sculptures by Michael Emmons anchor this skyway plaza. The welded steel box-like constructions, one raw steel the other painted purple, jump from the walls. Each piece is a series of three partial boxes tumbling onto one another.

Diffused overhead light creates slight shadows on the sculptures so the boxes become an optical illusion -- are the blocky dimensional forms coming forward or going backward in space? It's like an M. C. Escher drawing and the diagonal checkerboard carpeting further accentuates the mystery.

Michael Emmons was born in Iowa but has spent most of his life in Minnesota. His 30-year background in the steel industry created a foundation for his artistic career. His sculptures and public art have been shown in Palm Dessert, Calif.; Dallas and Maui, Hawaii.

So what about the bad things about our skyway system? This building has a perfect art deco lobby that doesn't get the attention it deserves.

The 15 S. 5th St. building was built in 1929 and still has its original bronze elevator doors that tout "Pioneers in Pubic Service" for former tenant Northern States Power.

Marble floors and walls, a classical plaster frieze, carved gilt molding and milk-glass chandeliers make this building a hidden gem.

LUNCH TIP: Go past the unpainted sculpture, across the skyway, and downstairs to the Lumber Exchange's Cafe Trieste for another hidden gem and fabulous Greek food.

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