Written August 4, 2015 for the St. Joseph Convention and Visitors Bureau:
I’m sitting in a new St. Joseph storefront on Felix Street. Tiger’s Den Bookstore and Bar is a unique downtown spot in St. Joe, with a chill library atmosphere, books on shelves lining the perimeter of the space, and the added luxury of having a beer instead of coffee. I can hear the calm rhythm of air blowing regularly out of the vents. The crisp turn of a page echoes through the long, deep room as another patron reaches closer to the end of a chapter. I’m reclining in an odd wooden chair that is surprisingly comfortable as shimmering natural light from the windows reflects off my keyboard through my glass of Founders IPA.
Outside perched on a cement block, looking smugly down the street is Humpty Dumpty. I’m not worried about “HD” having a great fall though, because he is one of 17 new sculptures scattered through the downtown area. He is safe and sound for the next year until new sculptures get rotated in next summer.
This is the second year of the St. Joseph Sculpture Walk, a program of the Allied Arts Council that gives the community and visitors a chance to interact with public art. Just shy of one mile the entire walk to visit those 17 art pieces takes one around the architectural beauty that downtown St. Joseph is famous for and the revitalization that is taking place. Some might say the buildings are art in their own right.
Prior to my trip for beer over the view of “HD’s” profile, I stopped by Allied Arts office and talked to Teresa Fankhauser, executive director of the Allied Arts Council.
Teresa explained how St. Joseph is already a great place to enjoy different forms of art. For performance art people have the amazing work that Robidoux Resident Theater produces. For visual art people have the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art or smaller galleries scattered around. What Allied Arts set out last year for, was giving the community a chance to experience the art up close and personal. “Art creates conversation”.
Rumor has it that if one rubs “HD’s” nose, they will have good luck. Apparently that is a common thing for the sculptures of Minnesota artist Kimber Fiebiger. She actually has two of her Humpty-like sculptures displayed in the downtown area, which so far have been a popular one for social media selfies. … I may or may not have taken one myself…
That’s the unique benefit of the Sculpture Walk. Apart from the impressive skill that these sculptures show from the artist, it is completely encouraged to touch, pose and for some, even climb.
Across from Coleman Hawkins Park is a massive sculpture of a bike, “Fat Tire #3” from Washington state artist Lance H. Carleton. A bike in which a pedal protrudes slightly from the right side, begging the foot of a traveler to swing their body over the mass and grip the handle bars with glee.
Public art such as the Sculpture Walk seems to be a win-win for everyone. The artists get the chance to display their work for an audience that they otherwise wouldn’t have access to. This year, nine states are being represented. The art also boosts the natural and cultural environment giving the community something to admire and talk about, not to mention introducing them to local businesses they might not have known were there.
“Art creates conversation”. Those are the three words from Teresa that I steal to best describe the Sculpture Walk. It describes the conversation that children will have with their folks after their grandparents took them around downtown and let the climb and jump through an eight-foot high cedar and corten steel ring.
It describes the conversation when a group of friends stops outside of Ground Round restaurant to admire a life sized “Cherry Tree” formed completely with silverware.
It’s the conversation that people have when they decide not to go to a movie but instead wander around St. Joe discovering not only interesting sculptures, but also the Pony Espresso for a cup of coffee or the profile of Humpty through a comfortable bookbars window.
A truck delivering some craft beer just pulled up behind “HD”. I might have another, and then on the way out rub his nose as I ride my bike to grab something to eat. Today I feel like hitting up Geneo’s Pizza for a pineapple and jalapeno peperoni calzone.