- Associated Press - Monday, May 22, 2017

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) - The guards at the Louvre would frown at anyone using Venus de Milo as a backrest, just like folks in Florence would be displeased if a visitor took a load off on the pedestal of Michelangelo’s David. And Rodin probably never intended for The Thinker’s lap to serve as a place to spread out a sack lunch.

With a couple of new pieces of art in Mankato, though, people are encouraged to look at them, contemplate their aesthetic and then plop a posterior on them, the Mankato Free Press (https://bit.ly/2q1wjjb ) reported.

A trio of funky benches, created by Twin Cities artist Korrin Lohmann, has been installed at the new Vetter Stone Plaza. The benches aren’t part of the CityArt Walking Sculpture Tour, which will bring more than two dozen new sculptures to downtown Mankato and North Mankato for a year.

Technically “artistic seating,” Lohmann’s benches are a permanent part of the plaza put in place as part of the construction of the $28 million performing arts/event center adjacent to the civic center.

Now, the goal is to persuade people it’s OK to sit, recline or eat lunch on them, said Noelle Lawton, executive director of the Twin Rivers Council for the Arts. So far, Mankatoans have been reluctant.

“Maybe we’ll plant some people (to instruct passersby) ‘You can sit here. You can lay back. You can have some food - use these little platforms for food and drink,’” Lawton said.

The concept of artistic seating also came to Riverfront Park with the installation of a permanent sculpture/bench called “Lean Back.” That one’s been in the works for more than a year - spurred by a donation from Mankato Fourth of July Celebration, the fundraising effort managed by Radio Mankato to keep the local Independence Day fireworks show alive during the Great Recession.

The city, after the economy improved, restored fireworks funding. With $4,000 in leftover funds, Mankato Fourth of July Celebration leaders decided a good use of the money would be artistic seating at Riverfront Park where the Independence Day festivities occur.

A request for proposals was issued in April 2016, and the winner was a design by W. Tyler Whitehead of Eagan and Charles Steward of Minneapolis.

“These guys have a lot of experience, and they’ve done a lot of projects throughout the Twin Cities area,” Lawton said.

The Mankato design will be a sort of fireworks-viewing platform made of brightly colored galvanized steel depicting a fireworks celebration, according to Lawton. Previews of the design weren’t made available because an unveiling and dedication ceremony are planned for July 4. People can find “Lean Back” near the beverage pavilion, facing the sky where the fireworks burst.

“Their design concept is very cool, and they put a lot of thought into the theme we were going for,” Lawton said.

The downtown bench, or triad of benches, are made of wood and steel, shaped by Lohmann to convey Mankato’s status as a river town.

“She submitted a design that would kind of reflect the different bridges we have in the community,” Lawton said.

The bridge/benches also will match the theme of the small plaza, which will have an artistic rendering of the Minnesota River carved into the sandstone wall by artist Greg Mueller. That work is expected to be finished this summer, Lawton said.

And for folks who need a siesta, Lawton knows a great spot right at the corner of Walnut and Second streets, less than a block from the Loose Moose, right in the heart of the sculpture walk.

“You can sit on it, you can lean back, you can stand on it,” she said of Lohmann’s creation. “… We just have to train them.”


Information from: The Free Press, https://www.mankatofreepress.com

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