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Construction of BREC terrazzo floor begins

Barbara Keith, designer of the Bemidji Regional Event Center terrazzo floor panorama, holds a brass beaver image, one of the characters that will be part of the pattern, which is now being installed around the hockey arena. Pioneer Photo/Molly Miron

The work of art that will be the floor of the Bemidji Regional Event Center is now taking shape - literally.

"This whole area is going to be terrazzo," said Barbara Keith, the artist who designed the 15,000-square-foot panorama of leaves, trees, birds, fish and animals framed by the blue north woods sky and waters.

The crew from Advance Terrazzo and Tile of Coon Rapids, Minn., has prepared much of the surface and installed the aluminum vertical sections that will divide and frame the colors and patterns the workers will inlay. The terrazzo is colored marble chips mixed with epoxy.

"It's a pattern of a lot of intersecting leaves," Keith said. "It's the story of what's happening in the fall. The birds are migrating; the beaver is working on his lodge."

The animal images and some of the other details are brass, which will be polished to a golden sheen. The brass and aluminum inserts will stay shiny because of the foot traffic from BREC visitors.

Keith was one of three finalist artists seeking the appointment. She said she had a budget from the BREC officials and sought bids from Advance Terrazzo and DeMars, also of Coon Rapids, for the brass details.

She said she chose to work in the Ojibwe Woodland style of art to make the design a story that unfolds as visitors walk around the hockey arena and conference center.

"Once I came across that, it just fell together," she said. She chose as animal characters the representatives of major Ojibwe clans: crane, bear, loon, fish, marten, bird and hoofed animal, in this case deer.

A person standing in one spot can't see the whole picture, but a stroll allows the images to unroll.

"It will invite people to explore - at least I hope so," Keith said. "You might come across a lake and catch a glimpse of a fish, a loon diving for dinner or a beaver preparing for winter. A river flows away from the lake and across your path, but no worries, there is a series of rocks that is reminiscent of the beginnings of the Mississippi River in Itasca that will see you safely across."

Keith, who also works in stained glass and mosaic, said she has completed many public art projects, but nothing as big as the BREC before.

"I love they're going to be in a place where lots of people can enjoy them," she said.