The lunchtime tourist

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July 2, 2002 // UPDATED 1:25 pm - April 30, 2007
By: Linda S. Koutsky
Linda S. Koutsky

"The Scroll" by John Rood Nicollet Mall & South 4th Street

Once the premier piece of public art on the Nicollet Mall, the fate of "The Scroll" is undetermined as the library prepares to move. When the current building was constructed in 1959, John Rood (1902-1974) was commissioned to design a work to grace the Nicollet Mall entrance.

An art professor at the University of Minnesota from 1944 to 1964, Rood's work had been exhibited widely in galleries and museums. The Walker, Weisman, and Minneapolis Institute of Arts own his pieces. Rood was a self-taught artist who began carving wood as a hobby. His early works were rustic, chiseled peasant figures based on characters he met growing up in rural Ohio. Later, he carved stone and worked with a variety of metals and glass.

In the 1940s he was invited to the University of Minnesota as a visiting artist. Once here, he stayed. Exhibits in the United States and Europe soon followed along with commissions for stone carvings at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral on Hennepin, a decorative wall at Hamline University and a mural for the American Association of University Women in Washington D.C.

For this prominent commission, Rood searched for a symbol to reflect the library's function without being too literal. He chose a scroll because it was a vehicle for written thoughts and was in use before the invention of books. The cryptic letterforms imply the mysteries of the past as well as the future. Built on-site on a welded steel armature, "The Scroll" is covered with sheets of bronze-coated copper. The calligraphic designs are made by repouss -- an ancient metalworking technique that creates raised ornamentation by hammering and pounding. Today, the sculpture sits in a nonfunctioning fountain, awaiting a conservator's evaluation on its ability to withstand a move.

Found a cultural curiosity? Notify thelunchtimetourist@hotmail.com.

LUNCH TIP: Family-run Hamlin's Coffee Shop at 512 Nicollet serves burgers, soups and pies in a small-town caf atmosphere.