Sculpture Tour Eau Claire moves to Water Street

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Story by Courtney Kueppers, Copy Editor

A street infamous for student nightlife is currently receiving a cultural upgrade due to downtown construction.

South Barstow Street is among the Eau Claire avenues that will be engaged in reconstruction over the course of the next few months. Aside from the headache this may provide those who travel this lane as a part of their usual route, it leaves the Sculpture Tour Eau Claire without a home.

For the past two years, Sculpture Tour Eau Claire has been primarily displayed on South Barstow Street, but as construction begins, the sculptures will find a new home on Water Street.

James Hanke, who serves on the sculpture tour board, said when a new location needed to be identified, Water Street “was a perfect fit.”

“Water Street is indicative of an area of the community where people are encouraged to walk from shop to shop,” Hanke said. “It makes for a very nice fit for the sculpture tour.”

Sculpture Tour Eau Claire is a 100 percent donation funded, volunteer-driven organization that strives to bring community beautification to Eau Claire. When the project started in 2011, the sculpture tour was a display of 27 original sculptures on the sidewalks of downtown Eau Claire.

Today, the sculptures remain in Eau Claire due to donations to the Sculpture Tour Endowment Fund, said Sue Bornick of the Eau Claire Community Foundation.

One of the original goals of Sculpture Tour Eau Claire was to foster appreciation for public art.

As the sculptures now make their way to the center of the student ghetto, Hanke does not foresee this goal being compromised.

“We assume that people are going to recognize this as art and treat it as such,” Hanke said.

Hanke, however, acknowledged the sculptures are going to be interacted with. Over the years, he has witnessed a multitude of bar goers as well as children and families climbing up on the sculptures to pose for funny pictures to post on Facebook. Hanke said he’s actually okay with these activities, and will continue to be when it happens on Water Street.

“Those types of things are going to happen. The pieces we have selected are reasonably sturdy and the sculptures are to be interacted with,” Hanke said.

He does however hope the insurance policy the committee has invested the communities’ dollars in will never have to be used.

Senior Kayla Ogren does not foresee the move going well, at least not at night.

“Bringing it to Water is a good idea for the people who appreciate the culture during the day,” Ogren said. “People are probably going to be climbing on them, something is going to get broken, and the artists may take that personally.”

Kyle Butz, who resides on Water Street with a view looking out onto Shenanigans, is no stranger to the surge in noise around bar close. But recently he has heard a lot of comments about the sculptures. Despite occasionally hearing mockery and seeing goofy pictures being taken, Butz still thinks Water Street is a fine home for the sculptures, where he assumes they are often silently appreciated by art lovers.

Butz acknowledged the art is not for everyone, but he thinks most Eau Claire residents will appreciate the sculptures. As far as students harming the sculptures when the nightlife is in full swing Butz thinks Water Street has enough cameras and police presence
already to deter students from messing with the sculptures.

The 31 sculptures of various subjects and materials now add a new feel to the street that is notorious for being lined with students and bars. The committee has no fear that the art is sturdy enough to survive the posing and picture taking that is undoubtedly in the
sculptures’ future.