Weather Forecast


Artist visits to discuss statue details

Sandy Kaul, co-chairwoman of the Chief Bemidji Statue Committee, points out to Washington-based sculpture Gareth Curtiss the general area along the Lake Bemidji waterfront where his bronze sculpture of Chief Bemidji will stand. — Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — The artist who will craft the new Chief Bemidji statue is in town this week to work out some of the project’s finer details.

Standing next to the current statue Monday on the Lake Bemidji waterfront, Washington-based sculptor Gareth Curtiss said some final issues, like the new statue’s exact location and which way he will face, still have to be worked out.

“We hope to get really close this week after Gareth’s visit,” said Sandy Kaul, co-chairwoman of the Chief Bemidji statue committee.

“They need these details in order to construct the platform,” added Carolyn Jacobs, a fellow committee chairwoman. “And the city intends to get the platform built before winter.”

The current plan is to erect the bronze statue and the platform beneath it across the bike path from the current statue and closer to the Carnegie Library building next spring.

Curtiss will visit with local officials, as well as Shaynowishkung’s descendants this week to get a better idea of his life and personality. He will also host a public event from 4-6 p.m. today at Bemidji City Hall to meet with local residents interested in the project.

Shaynowishkung, who was called Chief Bemidji by the first settlers to arrive here in 1888 before dying in 1904, has had two statues erected in his honor. Project planners say the latest statue, completed in 1952, doesn’t accurately depict the man whose legacy carries the city’s name.

Curtiss has crafted similar statues and monuments for communities across the country.

He said the biggest challenge in any sculpture is capturing the subject’s personality.

“There’s a common ground on all the sculptures, but for me it’s the personalities,” Curtiss said. “So that’s the challenge.”

The project has been in the works for a few years, but it received one final boost when the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners approved a $25,000 development grant in January, putting the fundraising effort over its $124,000 goal.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

(701) 255-5607