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Kelliher School students helping piece together sesquicentennial mosaic

KELLIHER -- A giant mosaic designed to capture the spirit of Minnesota for the state's sesquicentennial this year is getting creative help from students at Kelliher School.

Susan Warner of Minneapolis, who is the lead artist on the statewide project, brought part of it to the school this week.

"It's like a big jigsaw puzzle," Warner said as she prepared to help students arrange broken pieces of colorful tile on a paper template Thursday.

The "Greetings from Minnesota" mosaic will resemble a giant travel postcard from the state. The word "Minnesota" will stretch across the front of the mosaic with images representative of the state displayed within its letters. Handmade county-specific tiles will border the postcard. When it's done, the mosaic will be 10 feet tall and 20 feet long.

The public art piece, which will be permanently installed at the Minnesota State Fair, is a collaboration of residents throughout the state.

Kelliher students in grades 8-12 began work this week on part of the "Minnesota" script that will feature images of American Indian beading, Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox and the State Capitol. They also are working on some of the letters that spell "Greetings from Minnesota."

"Sue's getting us started and we'll continue after she leaves," said Rose Heim, who teaches K-12 art at the school.

On Wednesday, students began breaking tiles into pieces for the mosaic. They then split into teams of two to work on individual sections.

"It's all in sections -- manageable sections," said Wagner, noting that the tile will be taped to the paper template once the pieces are arranged.

She will then assemble the all the sections of the mosaic at her studio in Minneapolis before it is taken to its new home -- an exterior wall of the State Fair's Food Building.

Wagner pitched the mosaic idea to officials from the Minnesota Sesquicentennial Commission and State Fair after learning about commemoration plans for Minnesota's 150th year of statehood.

"I have always wanted to do a statewide project," she said. "This was the perfect excuse."

Wagner said she also has always wanted to create a giant travel postcard. She shared her idea with students at Kelliher School last year during one of her many visits as an artist-in-residence.

Sophomore Tanner Schuh said he is happy the project is moving forward and that Kelliher students are involved.

"I just can't wait to get started on it," he said.

He added that he thinks the project is a good idea.

"The state's turning 150, and this way, we'll actually have something to remember it by," he said.

The project will bring Wagner to communities around the state where residents will work on different sections specific to their region.

"I wanted a project that would unite people, not divide people, through art," she said.