The popular sculpture “I in Edina” is likely returning to its spot on the Edina Promenade as a permanent piece of the city’s public art collection.
The sculpture, which was the brainchild of Edina Public Schools student Mac Anderson, was discussed at a Feb. 25 meeting of the city’s Arts and Culture Commission. City staff proposed that the sculpture, which had been removed due to wear and tear, become a permanent part of Edina’s public art collection. The commission unanimously supported the move.
“This is kind of the first step of many to bring this back to Edina for residents and visitors to experience,” Perry Vetter, the city’s parks and recreation director, told the Sun Current.
The now-removed sculpture features green wooden blocks – each featuring an E, D, I, N or A – assembled to form larger human-sized letters, spelling “ED NA” with a space in the middle for a person to stand to become the “I.” It was located on the Edina Promenade at Centennial Lakes Park beginning in 2018 before its removal the next year.
After hearing the proposal, the Arts and Culture Commission supported the project with a monetary commitment of 25% of its Public Art Fund, totaling about $11,500. The commission also asked the city to look into making the sculpture movable.
How the sculpture came to be
Several years ago, Edina Public Schools art teacher Shannon Steven launched a project that gave elementary students the chance to make their sculpture ideas become reality. This project was made possible by a grant from the Edina Education Fund and the city’s Arts and Culture Commission, where about 130 students ended up sending in their maquettes, small versions of their proposed sculptures, for consideration.
The theme was “I am.” Arts and Culture Commission Vice Chair Russ Rubin said Steven’s goal for the project was to get students involved in public art, which could foster greater appreciation for the cultural resource.
Mac, then a third-grader at Concord Elementary, was one of three students to be chosen to have their art become full-sized sculptures on the Edina Promenade.
He then worked with professional artist Charles Morrill over the course of several months at the Edina Community Center’s workshop to create the piece, Morrill said. The sculpture went on display in November 2018.
“Mac learned how to build it with (Morrill),” said Erik Anderson, Mac’s father and an Edina Public Schools teacher. Morrill said he felt the same way working with Mac and his family and friends. “It was a great deal of fun,” he said.
In his artist statement, Mac described the significance of the work: “Anyone can step into this sculpture and become part of Edina. No matter who you are, you are part of this Edina community.”
He adds that his inspiration came from watching a home improvement show in which the hosts used their bodies to spell a certain word. When they stood for an “I,” the idea popped into his head, he wrote.
And according to Mac’s mother Alison Anderson, who is also an Edina Public Schools teacher, part of his inspiration might have come from Minecraft. The videogame allows players to use “blocks” to craft structures and items, similar to the sculpture’s composition. “He’s pretty creative” Mac’s mother said.
Then, in August 2019, the sculpture was removed due to the weathering that naturally affects an outdoor structure made of untreated wood, Vetter said.
“(We were) disappointed it was gone,” Erik Anderson said. He added, “We were certainly happy for the time it had and then (now), we’re just really happy they’re like, ‘Hey, that was nice, let’s make it really permanent.’”
The new version of the sculpture could be made of more durable materials like treated wood, metal, or concrete, to ensure its longevity, Vetter said.
Commissioners comment on proposal
Vetter said in a preliminary assessment that the sculpture rebuild could cost around $9,000. In addition to the commission dedicating funds for the project, Vetter added that the Edina Community Foundation and other donors said they were interested in offsetting some costs for the sculpture. The commission ended up committing up to $11,500 for the sculpture.
The city plans to work with Mac and Morrill to select materials and make sure the plans match the intent of their work, Vetter told the commission. Morrill said he could help physically work on the sculpture if the city chooses to use a type of wood, which is his specialty.
Rubin asked during the meeting if the sculpture could have some sort of mobility. This is in keeping with the Arts and Culture Commission’s goal of exposing more people to the city’s public art, he told the Sun Current.
Commissioner Steven Suckow noted he was in favor of the commission committing funds to see the sculpture come to fruition, especially since people are expecting the fund to be used for the benefit of public art like this.
In addition to Vetter’s account that the sculpture was a popular landmark, Commissioner Peggy Martin said that from where she lives, she could see how popular the sculpture was when it was standing.
Many families used the sculpture for photo opportunities, Rubin added. “It was something that they could really relate to,” he said.
– Follow Caitlin Anderson on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent
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