In the Twin Cities, there are “Peanuts” characters. In Chicago, there are cows. And in Eau Claire, there are hands.
Over a dozen hands, standing more than 3 feet tall, infiltrated Eau Claire this summer from Water Street to Carson Park to Chippewa Valley Technical College and Clairemont Avenue. However, these hands aren’t just avant-garde pieces of art from students, but a physical advertisement for one of Eau Claire’s newest features.
As a five-month long promotion for the Children’s Museum, 220 S. Barstow St., last June, local artists collaborated with local businesses to create “Hands Across Eau Claire.”
Senior Meghan Becker, who earned her Service learning at the Children’s Museum last summer, said the hands worked wonders in advertising the museum across Eau Claire.
“(The Hands) are a great way to show the community that the Children’s Museum exists,” she said.
In that light, Eau Claire businesses and natives pitched in to support a great organization that benefits the community, Culver’s supervisor Elysia Kotke said.
Because the museum logo is a hand print and the museum itself focuses on being hands-on, Executive Director Suzie Slota said the idea stuck right away.
“We saw the Peanuts statues in St. Paul (Minn.) … and Amelia Daniels (a volunteer) thought ‘If they can do it, then Eau Claire can do it.’ And we were sold on the idea,” she said.
However, Eau Claire is far from the first, or even the 10th city across the Midwest to experiment with promotional statuettes. Slota noted Oshkosh, Sturgeon Bay, New Glarus, Milwaukee, Madison and Racine museum advertisements as also being statue-themed within the state.
These hands painted by artists from Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Rice Lake and Menomonie, not only serve as pieces of art, but also as decorative chairs.
“They’re functional as well as beautiful,” Slota said.
Kotke is a volunteer at the Children’s Museum as well as a supervisor at Culver’s, 2021 Brackett Ave., who realized the benefits of investing in a hand right away.
“I love the idea of public art and bringing together different businesses,” she said. “Plus, the kids go outside with their cones and play on it and get their pictures taken.”
Despite low student artist involvement, Becker said the final product was far from disappointing.
“They turned out really well … the artists did a great job, and they tie in with kids really well,” she said.
Starting Oct. 4, the hands that could be found in 19 different locations across Eau Claire moved to Oakwood Mall for an open auction, which will last two to three weeks.
Becker said the auction definitely will help out with the museum’s new expansion. The demand and popularity of the Children’s Museum has had a great impact on the museum administration, Slota said.
With the help of the hand auction and other donations, the Children’s Museum hopes to start expanding a second floor to the establishment.
However, Eau Claire residents haven’t nearly seen the last of the Children’s Museum hands. Next year, Slota said, the museum will do it again with all new hands.
“I would love to get one next year, it was $1,500, but I really believe in the investment,” Kotke said.
When several summers pass and the number of hands that have adorned the doorsteps of businesses and parks increase, Eau Claire may very well be mentioned in the same sentence with the likes of Chicago and St. Paul.
“It’s a neat and unique theme,” Becker said, “as opposed to other cities that do cows, buffalo or cats.”
All the Hands Near You
507 Main Street (Hillside Dental)
430 Water Street (Avalon European Floral)
1030 Regis Court (Vinopal Title)
1104 West Clairemont Avenue (Sweetwaters Restaurant)
1110 Oakridge Drive (Oakleaf Pediatrics)
3409 Oakwood Mall Drive (Piper Jaffray)
2021 Brackett Avenue (Culver’s)
2909 Lorch Avenue (Eau Claire Ford)
200 Riverfront Terrace (RCU)
Carson Park (Eau Claire Cooperative Oil Co.)
5545 State Road 93 (WQOW TV 18)
Owen Park (Toutant Family)
3902 Oakwood Hills Parkkway (Kristo Orthodontics)
620 West Clairemont Avenue (Johnson and Cervenka Families)
701 South Farwell Street (Leader-Telegram)
719 W. Hamilton Avenue (Evergreen Surgical, Computerized Medical Imaging and Chippewa Valley Neurosciences)
220 S. Barstow Street (Children’s Museum)