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Sculptures Line Ironwood's Aurora Loop

Monie Shackleford

Miners Memorial Heritage Park in Ironwood, Michigan, unveiled a new art exhibit last weekend.  As WXPR Contributor Monie Shackleford reports, artists unveiled twelve temporary outdoor pieces along a one-mile trail called the Aurora Loop.  

The one mile loop winds through forests and meadows, and many of the art pieces have a natural theme and use natural materials.  When Amy Anderson heard about the plans for Art in the Park, she had an immediate idea of what she would create.

“As soon as I heard about it, I immediately thought about doing a driftwood turtle. You know, doing some kind of outdoor- something that will last, something that has been exposed. Putting the copper on the pieces as well. They’re already weathering. Just in a couple of days I’ve already noticed a change in them."

Artist Doug Kikkebusch created an eight foot tall arch using four pickup truck loads of branches from the local compost pile. Another installation is a rock maze in the shape of Lake Superior, which is interactive as visitors can walk the winding maze. 

Credit Monie Shackleford / WXPR News

Given that the park is on the property of four different abandoned iron mines, several artists used mining as a theme in their work.  

West Allis artist Roy Staab’s created his piece “Levels of Waiting” in reference to the 1926 collapse of the Pabst mine…where three miners died and 43 others were trapped for five days.  Staab’s piece is a cradle of interwoven branches that are suspended above the trail in the aspen forest. 

"Now the layers come from the mine disaster. The miners in 1926 were trapped in various layers of the mine, so I wanted to keep it in layers instead of making one homogeneous piece. The piece is to be walked through and experienced. I like it to be an experience that you just walk up to it and say “Ah-ha.” An “ah-ha”a moment. Very important. I like that. And now with the windy day they’re fluctuating, they’re bouncing."

Another piece refers to iron ore that is still in the ground.  Iron-wood No.1 by Phil Kucera has a railroad tie erected vertically with a large star drill bit drilled through it at an angle. The star bit was used underground by miners to drill dynamite holes. 

The iron ore formation starts in around the Mellon Wisconsin area and goes sort of northeastward to Lake Gogebic, about a length of 80 miles.  The timber is set perpendicular to that line: this angle of the timber.  The rod itself is at a 65 degree angle and this was the angle of the iron ore deposit.

The art pieces are temporary, and will only be displayed through July 28th.  Artists are competing to win the popular vote which comes with a $1000 for the first prize. 

Paul Kostelnik of the Friends of the Miners Memorial Heritage Park, which organized the event, explains why and how prize money was raised for artists.

"We did a Kickstarter internet fundraising to raise $3500 to pay the prizes for the artists. The idea being we wanted to attract quality artists and we wanted to get at least twelve artists in here."

The voting process also helps engage visitors who come to see the exhibit.  I spoke with Lily Palmer about her impressions of the event.

“I was astounded by the variability in color and texture and creativity that people used. So walking a mile was like walking a quarter mile because there were so many interesting things to see.
I’m going to come back when I’m all by myself and walk through and take it all in a second time. Because initially I thought maybe it might be easy to pick my favorite, and what I found after today in listening to the artists talk about their pieces is that I kind of love all of them. So its going to be a tough vote.

Visitors have the opportunity to vote for their three favorites through July 19th when the winners will be announced.   

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