Sculpting the streets


Story by Emily Albrent

The Eau Claire downtown area will yet again be decorated with a wide range of sculptures starting May 7. The Sculpture Tour is a way to bring life to Eau Claire’s art scene and add to the beauty of downtown, according to tour organizers.

Benny Haas, an organizer of the sculpture tour, said there were three main goals for the Sculpture Tour: “decorating” Eau Claire sidewalks, bringing business downtown and providing a free event for people to enjoy the arts.

“It is kind of a tourist attraction,” said Mike Schatz, the economic development director at City Hall. “It certainly shows the commitment that this community has to the arts.”

According to the Sculpture Tour website, the tour is a free event in which the sculptures are owned by the artists and loaned to the exhibit. Haas said the sculptures can even be purchased, and some from last year’s tour will be staying permanently in Eau Claire.

The website states that the artists and their sculptures do not just come from the Eau Claire area. They are imported to the downtown area from across the United States, England and Canada.

Schatz said a mailing goes out to artists all over  who then can choose whether or not to participate. A team then reviews the sculptures and chooses which ones will be right for the community.

Schatz said the last tour of sculptures helped bring more people into the downtown area.  Residents and visitors could spend a day looking at the sculptures and in the end, discover the local businesses.

“They could be standing in front of a store looking at a sculpture and they may turn around and say, ‘Oh, this looks like an interesting place to visit,’” Schatz said.

Last year, the sculptures were a hit, Schatz said. They captured the community and made an impact on local culture, while involving Eau Claire residents in the planning process.

“They have had a great team of volunteers that have been able to keep their costs low in terms of building the bases for the sculptures and moving them,” Schatz said.

Schatz added that the reconstruction of Barstow Street will be postponed for a year to make safe space for the sculpture’s homes.

“It was part of the whole process of looking at the timing,” he said. “We want to be accommodating. So when we have to do the constructing we want to make sure they have other spots within the downtown that they can place the sculptures,” Schatz said.

According to Haas, the new sculptures will be placed throughout South and North Barstow Streets, cutting all the way up through Madison Street to Luther Hospital.