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Bemidji roots influence sculptor; Caleb is a third-generation Belleveau to take up the art

Caleb Belleveau sits inside his installation, which was located on the green beside Security Bank for the 2005 Bemidji Sculpture Walk. This piece was later moved to Northwest Technical College. Submitted Photo

BEMIDJI – Caleb Belleveau can trace his artistic roots back to his great-great grandfather, the “smithy” in the woods of Puposky.

His grandfather, Albert, brought a welder up to the family land in the 1950’s, around the same time as electricity arrived to that area.

“My father would melt down the zinc lids from canning jars,” Caleb’s dad, Al Belleveau, said. “He would do some castings with his brother Allen and the neighbors. Allen’s yellow submarine, USS Sally, is one of the pieces in this year’s Bemidji Sculpture Walk.”

Al Belleveau, also a local sculptor, said that his father started to teach him welding around the age of 4 or 5. And Caleb earliest memories of “doing art” are of taking castoffs from the floor of Belleveau’s shop/studio.

“I think I was about 4 years old when I starting hanging out in my father’s shop/studio,” said Caleb. “I would pick up nuts, bolts and chunks of iron, make something with them and my father would weld them together.”

According to the senior Belleveau, there were so many pieces around the house that Caleb’s mother, Cate Belleveau, went and placed them on various trails on the property where they still stand.

Today one can see two of Caleb’s pieces in Northwest Technical College’s permanent art display, while a Google search of his turns up images of his newest kinetic pieces. This 25-year-old, who graduated from Perpich Center for Arts Education in Golden Valley in 2005, points to two arts teachers here in Bemidji as inspirational.

“Gregg Wilimek from Bemidji Middle School and Mr. May, the art teacher at Bemidji High School, taught a lot of art history in their classes,” Caleb Belleveau said. “After I left BHS and went to Perpich, I knew more about art history than the students there. I did some undergraduate work in Chicago but transferred to Concordia University in Montreal for my BFA.”

Dare-Dare, a French arts organization, sponsored an installation for Belleveau while he was still an undergraduate. As Belleveau explained it, he placed the installation in a sewer in Montreal and one had to climb down a ladder to get to it. Apparently it was slightly illegal so they had to advertise it online and not do big public showings.

Belleveau joined a co-op in San Francisco for awhile but the lure of his home and family back in Minnesota was too strong to ignore.

Belleveau has tried his hand at some interesting ventures since leaving school and is now considering going back for a master’s degree in art at the Minneapolis College of Arts and Science.

Belleveau lives in Minneapolis in an old house that he has bought and plans to turn it into an arts space, but he needs to find other places for his sculptures which require the use of welding tools and materials. For now, he earns his living as a bike mechanic “because the income is steady.”