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Bemidji sculpture and mural walk reflects place and people

Some familiar faces and some newcomers line the Bemidji Art Walk.

Starting in 1998, the project invites visitors to tour downtown Bemidji and gives local residents opportunities to admire sculptures and murals created by artists from the Bemidji area, as well as imported works.

Some of the works in the permanent sculpture collection include Niimii, which means "he dances" in Ojibwe, near the Tourist Information Center. The walking tour guide lists Niimii as No. 1 and directs the walker around a four-by-five block of downtown for most of the sculptures and murals.

Additional works that are not technically part of the walk, but are in the collection, can be viewed at Bemidji State University, Northwest Technical College-Bemidji, Bemidji Regional Airport, Bemidji High School, Paul Bunyan Telephone, Security State Bank and the Boys & Girls Club of the Bemidji Area.

Included among the new works this year are two by Al Belleveau -- Gear Head and Leaf Angel. Gear Head, at the corner of Third Street and Beltrami Avenue Northwest, is a character mounted on moveable ball bearings. Suzi Rhae Ross, Sculpture Walk coordinator, said Belleveau likes to create works that are interactive.

That applies to his Tool Shed, literally a small building made of tools welded together and painted in bright colors, which has returned to Bemidji after being exhibited in Chicago. The Tool Shed is on the green outside Security State Bank.

Belleveau's Leaf Angel at the corner of Fifth Street and Beltrami Avenue Northwest is the second in a series, Ross said. The first one went to the Sioux Falls Sculpture Walk and was almost immediately sold.

Another new piece is One World Is Enough, a blue mosaic globe at the corner of Fourth Street and Beltrami Avenue Northwest. It is in the corner garden and planted so that blue morning glories can climb toward the sphere.

Ross is also a contributor to the Sculpture Walk with Me, Myself & I, a collaboration with Bemidji High School students, at the corner of Third Street and Bemidji Avenue Northwest. She also created Jester Revealed at the corner of Third Street and Beltrami Avenue Northwest. The bust is a life cast of her face on one side and Holly Hedeen's face on the other. The rest of the sculpture is cast iron and crockery.

"I'm always trying to look for ways to use anything recyclable," Ross said. "Al's taught me well that the best materials are free or things other people disregard," she said.

The Moose at the corner of Second Street and Beltrami Avenue Northwest by Kenny Tetrault of Walhalla, N.D., is one of the few sculptures made by someone outside the Bemidji area. Ross said the Art Walk this year is based on "Bemidji, a Sense of Place and Its People."

"That was the original theme and it still holds true," she said. "Our primary artists are all Bemidji folks ... people who live here, work here and play here."

In addition to sculpture, the Art Walk includes murals, both indoors and out. The Garden of Harmony by Mary Therese Peterson on the north wall of Harmony Foods features portraits of local people. Peterson is also working with the Boys & Girls Club to create a mural there titled Mississippi River Relief. The relief is a community effort in that Ace donated paint, Home Depot donated a gift card used for a chop saw and glue and UBC and Timber Roots donated high-grade plywood. The project, scheduled for completion in early July, was also funded by grants from the Laura Jane Musser Fund and the Boys & Girls Club.

In addition, seven kiosks around the downtown area feature paintings of flowers by Peterson. These paintings will change on July 1 to landscapes by Paula Swenson.

The Bemidji Public Arts Walking Guide is available at the Tourist Information Center.