Bronze park benches will be one-of-kind creation, with help from Viking school student artists

Who said a handful of city council members concerned with the nuts and bolts of roads, sewer budgets and tax levies can’t have a mellow, artistic side?

 So inspired with a proposal to install a pair of one-of-a-kind, artist-created bronze benches to the city-scape, the Pelican Rapids City Council gave its hearty support–with hardly a question and not a  discouraging word. 

In fact, the council went a step further––allocating  even more money than requested for  the project. 

New art teacher at Pelican’s Viking Elementary, Kate Woolever-Martinez, proposed the project at the Nov. 13 meeting.  She is also a new member of the Pelican Rapids city park and recreation board. 

“Street Seats” will be created for downtown Pelican Rapids under a proposal for two bronze sculptures by well known Minnesota artist Tom Christianson–under a proposal by Pelican Rapids art teacher and park board member Kate Woolever-Martinez.

Not only would the city gain original–and practical–artwork, but the Viking grade school students will play a role in creating the designs, said Martinez. 

The $18,000 project would include the educational component, with well-known Minnesota artist Tom Christiansen teaching students about bronze casting and also selecting four drawings from the students.  These selected drawings will become the concepts from which the park benches will be created. 

“The student artwork will be transformed into public art,” said Martinez, an advocate for art in public places.  

“Street seats” have been an urban trend, but mostly in large urban areas like Minneapolis, Portland and New York City.  Martinez would like to bring permanent, creative and practical  art to Pelican Rapids. If this first project goes well, she would like to see future endeavors for city sidewalks and park areas. 

“The benches will be bronze, so they last forever. There is no maintenance,” said Martinez.  

She is confident about $13,000 in funding in the form of a state “Legacy Grant.”  She was asking for $ 3,500, possibly from the city’s liquor store proceeds. She proposed  to fundraise the remaining $1,500.

After hearing the proposal, City Councilman Kevin Ballard  suggested that the city allocate the entire $5,000.  

His motion to approve the full $5,000 passed unanimously.

The city’s contribution, from proceeds at the city-run Pelican Liquors should enable Martinez to meet the proposed schedule. Martinez is confident that the $13,000 Legacy grant will be approved, based on her experience with prior applications.

 Artist Christiansen will work with students in May and select drawings. By September the benches will be completed. In October 2019, the pieces will be installed–and a community gathering will be hosted to unveil the benches. 

A plaque will also be installed, featuring the name of the student design winners.