Minnesota Rocks!

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Don’t miss this summer’s “rock-a palooza” event that is now shaping up St. Paul. The Minnesota Stone Carving Symposium, Minnesota ROCKS!, is making noise (and dust) on the (formerly) lush green lawn of the St. Paul College at the corner of Kellogg and Summit Avenue in the Capital City.

Minnesota ROCKS! brings 14 master stone carvers together for a unique event that celebrates creativity in its most basic form—an artist and a block of stone. Besides Minnesota, artists hail from Japan, Germany, Mexico, China, Zimbabwe, Finland and Egypt. Rock is used from throughout the state, emphasizing the immense natural and creative resources available in Minnesota.

Wandering through the field of massive stone, listening to the chink-chink-chink and the buzzzzzzzzz of the power tools as the artists work is an urban treat and a fascinating event to observe. Minnesota ROCKS! is for everyone, and offers many educational features for children. As you enter the workspace, there is a brief educational and safety schpiel to help you steer clear of potential hazards related to this intense craft.

The catalog of participants is impressive and worth reading about on the website designed specifically for this event (MinnesotaRocks.org). During the first week of Minnesota Rocks!, a handful of the artists had already made considerable progress on their sculptures, and repeat visits to the site provide visual updates.

Artist Duane Goodwin, of the White Earth band of Ojibwe in Bemidji, works industriously on a large block of limestone with a power saw, coating everything nearby with clouds of dust. Meanwhile, St. Paulite Craig David wields his hammer, chisels and power tools, slowly shaping a large piece of taconite into an original creation. David says, “As participants…our languages may not be the same, but our art will become the universal idiom though which understanding develops.”

Visiting from Mashonaland, Zimbabwe, is Lazarus Takawira. “Every stone is a sculpture, the only thing that is needed is to remove the dirty parts,” he says. Standing more than 6-feet tall, Takawira is fascinating to watch as he roosts atop scaffolding and an enormous block of limestone. He alternately carves and chisels, fully aware of what his direction is, while the rest of us guess and wonder. Takawira is a member of Zimbabwe’s Shona tribe, historically known for producing beautiful stone sculptures.

The symposium serves as a cultural bridge, bringing diverse sculptors together who speak the same artistic language. Egyptian artist Salah El Din Ahmed Mohamed Hammad states, “I enjoy working with artists from different cultures and through the creative process of sculpting…exchanging ideas and aesthetic values.” This goal has been the intention of the Stone Carving Symposium movement for 47 years, since the gathering was launched by sculptor Karl Prantl in Austria.

Sponsored by Hedberg Landscape and Masonry Supplies and Public Art Saint Paul (as well as more than a half dozen foundations and businesses), the event is intended to “promote international understanding through stone carving while educating the public,” says Public Art Saint Paul’s Christine Podas-Larson. At the conclusion of the Symposium, 13 sculptures will be placed in Saint Anthony Village, Vadnais Heights and St. Paul. An exhibit of work will also be on display at the College Of Visual Arts Gallery in June.

Minnesota Rocks! runs through June 25 on the lawn of St. Paul College. For details on the exhibit and the educational schedule, go to MinnesotaRocks.org. Volunteers are also needed; e-mail info@publicartstpaul.org or call 651-290-0921 for information.

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