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Bemidji Sculpture Walk: Creations come in all shapes and sizes

Joe Mistic, with his wife Eileen, hesitates as he prepares to pet a sculpture "Rabbit" by Daphna Russell that sits outside Raphael's Bakery. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper1 / 2
"Leo" a sculpture by Pokey Park, keeps a close eye on Lisa Knights as she plants flowers in the planter at Third Street and Beltrami Avenue Northwest. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper2 / 2

The Sculpture Walk in downtown Bemidji has 28 new creations this year, each featuring unique parts and pieces with a history of its own.

New installments range from a marble spiral of a seashell's inner core to a psychedelic mosaic in Bob Dylan style.

Each year the sculptures rotate, and artists from the Bemidji area and around the country submit sculptures to be accepted into the walk.

New this year, the sculpture walk has stretched from its start at the Tourist Information Center to the Hampton Inn in anticipation of the new Bemidji Regional Event Center, according to Al Belleveau, one of the founders of the walk.

"The committee decided to connect the newer part of town and the old part of town," Belleveau said. "The initial thrust of the walk is to get people downtown and give them a treasure map and go explore."

The sculptures have also now extended all the way down Third Street instead of stopping at Irvine Avenue.

Sculptors differ not only in region, but in age, too. Belleveau said youngest artist to participate in the walk was his son, Caleb, when he was 12 years old.

This year, 74-year-old Daphna Russell, of Cedaredge, Colo., has two sculptures featured in the walk. "Woman at the Well" sits at corner of Third Street and Minnesota Avenue and "Great Expectations" is along Minnesota Avenue across the street from Raphael's Bakery.

Russell said in a telephone interview that she didn't start seriously applying herself as a professional artist until she was 50, when she started to have the time to make sculptures to be sold.

Russell said she believes she'll continue making the pieces, too.

"I guess because I'm an artist," she said. "I find that most artists keep going, that I know."

"Great Expectations," a rabbit looking skyward, sits only 16 inches high. The name came from a friend of Russell's who realized that the rabbit looked pregnant.

"Many of my sculptures have an air that something is about to happen - it's implicit," she said.

"Woman at the Well," gained its name from a story in the New Testament of the Bible about a Samaritan woman Jesus approached for a drink of water, Russell said.

The sculpture originally started out as a peacock.

"I can't keep in the lines when I'm working on an image," she said. "Can't do that, never could. I guess that's why my work is original."

Like Russell, other featured artists in the sculpture walk show unique artistry.

"Blanks used for ship mines in World War II, then for propane tanks, and then eventually to scrap," said Belleveau of the material to create Bret Prang's sculpture, "Humble," which is by the Hampton Inn & Suites.

Belleveau said he visits the Waste Management site every time he's in town to look for "treasures" for his own sculptures, like "Rock Ant Roll," which is featured in this year's new sculptures.

"Chain! Chain is always a good thing," he said. Old tin buckets, pieces of metal, and even toy Caterpillar trucks are salvaged and saved for the next sculpture.

"Different shapes, and you never know," he said. "You have to look at it with a child's eye."

Belleveau said there wasn't a decidedly favorite sculpture yet, since the newest sculptures have only been up for a few weeks. Citizens can get a sculpture walk map from the Tourist Information Center and view the newest additions in the surrounding downtown area.

"Oh, yeah. It'll keep going," Belleveau said. "There's enough people involved. I believe that it's enjoyed by the inhabitants of Bemidji."