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Artists selected for Bemidji Regional Event Center

One section of the artwork that will cover the concourse floor of the Bemidji Regional Event Center will depict an image of the Mississippi River headwaters. Animals shown in this portion include a swimming beaver and several fish. In the bottom right corner is a beaver dam. The colors of the artwork are intended to represent the outdoors of northern Minnesota during autumn. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

The theme of "bringing the outdoors inside" is advancing at the Bemidji Regional Event Center.

The two artists selected to provide artwork for the BREC have submitted designs that will showcase the northern Minnesota landscape.

Barbara Benson Keith of Fine Art Glassworks in Lanesboro, Minn., has been selected to produce "Nature's Flow," a design that will be created utilizing the terrazzo concourse of the BREC.

Her design utilizes 17 colors taken from nature. The palette features golds, rusts, browns and shades of green.

Alexander Tylevich of Tylevich Studio in St. Paul has been chosen to produce a suspended art piece that will utilize transparent materials and LEDs, or light-emitting diodes.

His piece will be designed to depict moving waves of a river. In his proposal, he wrote that it is a two-piece work that will suspend about 10 feet above the floor and reach the ceiling. The two waves will run toward each other and intersect in mid-air.

Terrazzo floor

Terrazzo flooring is an epoxy floor with stone, granite, quartz, glass or other aggregate mixed in.

The floor lends itself to artwork because one can change the color of the filler and the aggregate.

For Keith's work, she plans to depict an outdoors experience during fall in northern Minnesota, from entering the BREC on a bed of leaves to walking across the headwaters of the Mississippi to seeing beavers, deer and bears.

"The visitor enters on a bed of leaves," she wrote. "The colors suggest autumn, one of the prettiest times for a walk in Minnesota. Enjoy the interaction of leaves with the organic flow of the path.

"You might come across a lake and catch a glimpse of a fish, a loon diving for dinner or a beaver preparing for winter."

The journey ends with a sunset along the river's edge.

"It captures that northern Minnesota feeling," Mayor Richard Lehmann said Monday during the Bemidji City Council meeting.

Scenes, animals and colors are divided along the floor by aluminum strips. Keith would like to use some pieces of glass, mirror or other shiny aggregate in the flooring where areas of water are depicted.

Keith's design especially met the art committee's desire to bring the outdoors inside the BREC, said Rita Albrecht, Bemidji's community development director.

"(Keith), in particular, really hit the nail on the head," Albrecht said.

Suspended art

Tylevich's suspended art will be set at the main entrance to the BREC, where the terrazzo floor will depict a rustic trail covered in leaves.

The waves, which will span the foyer, will intersect in mid-air right at the entrance.

"The design allows for thorough interpretation and reinterpretation many times over," Tylevich wrote in his proposal. "One might read the artwork to represent flowing water, a waterfall, the waves of the mighty Mississippi or even waves of success."

One of the requests made of those submitting suspended art proposals was that the artwork be visible from outside the BREC.

"We want someone outside to be able to begin to experience that artwork before they even get inside," Albrecht said.

Tylevich also has a background in architecture, which helped him to be able to showcase the art piece and the BREC, she noted.

"He really understands and responded to the building," Albrecht said.

A collaboration

The art committee, after considering all the proposals, wanted to ensure that the floor art complemented the suspended art and vice versa.

And it wanted both art pieces to complement the interior color scheme of the BREC.

Albrecht said Keith's design will work well within the BREC, although there may be a few color adjustments to better match some of the Bemidji Statue University signage with deep forest green.

Tylevich will work with Keith to ensure that some of the same materials and colors are used in both pieces of art.

"They will meld the two together," she said.


A state requirement dictates that 1 percent of all state bonding dollars given toward a project must be reserved for public art.

For the BREC, that meant that of the $20 million received from the state, $200,000 was reserved for art.

The terrazzo floor was budgeted for $100,000 and the suspended art pieces for the two entrances were budgeted $80,000.

Additional funds went to Forecast Public Art, a firm contracted by the city of Bemidji to help lead the artist search. Also, each of the six finalists or teams of finalists were awarded $1,000 each, plus travel expenses, to develop and present their designs to the art committee.

The $100,000 budget for the terrazzo floor art is in addition to the actual cost of the flooring. It will be combined with the BREC bid for the flooring that was given to Advance Terrazzo & Tile Co. Inc. of Coon Rapids, Minn., for $239,800.

Keith contacted Advance Tile while drafting her proposal and outlined a budget (which the BREC architect is double-checking) that ensures the flooring would stay within budget.

Keith and Tylevich will each receive an artist fee for their work.

Selection process

The BREC Public Art Committee decided to focus initially on two areas for incorporating permanent art elements into the BREC: the terrazzo floor and suspended art at the entryway.

The two projects were selected as the top priority because they would need to be done during the construction of the facility.

Assisting the city and the art committee in the selection process was Forecast Public Art, which sent out an invitational Request For Proposals to selected recipients.

Those invited to take part in the process included local artists as well as regional artists.

Invited artists were chosen, according to Forecast Public Art, based on recommendations from the art committee and research. Artists were contacted via e-mail and phone.

Twenty-one artists or artist teams responded to the RFP, Albrecht said. All were from the Upper Midwest and most were from Minnesota.

The art committee then reviewed the work samples, letters of interest and résumés before voting on three artists who were invited to create preliminary design proposals, using a finalist fee.

While the selected artists did not ultimately turn out to be from the Bemidji area, local artists were among the finalists.

Albrecht said the committee is hoping to keep local artists involved in the process.

The art committee also intends to expand opportunities for art in the BREC in the future, assuming local funding would be found through donors and the Region 2 Arts Council.

"The committee is very interested in providing opportunities for regional and local artists to have their artwork in (the BREC)," Albrecht said. "There certainly is a lot of support for that."