Eau Claire's Sculpture Tour
Posted: June 10, 2011
Within a two block radius of my downtown Eau Claire office, I see a buffalo, a bear and a turtle. I have also viewed a naked torso, an elderly woman holding a basket of fruit and a man standing on his head. No, the circus hasn't come to town. It's the first-ever Sculpture Tour, part of an 11-month art appreciation promotion that has already proven to serve as a tourist attraction.
I remember visiting downtown Chicago in 1999 when that city's Office of Tourism invested in the "Cows on Parade Exhibit ". It featured 300 ceramic bovines and became the city's most popular art exhibit, translating to roughly $100 million in additional tourism revenue.
While Eau Claire's Sculpture Tour is miniscule by comparison, it is designed to become an ongoing attraction. For the next three months, the public will have the opportunity to vote for its favorite sculpture, which in turn will be purchased by Sculpture Tour Eau Claire and donated to the City of Eau Claire Parks Department for permanent placement. The other sculptures can be purchased by anyone. The whole process repeats a year from now, with all new pieces.
The Sculpture project originated eight years ago in Sioux Falls,SD, and has spread to other cities throughout the Upper Midwest. On two trips to my office last weekend, I noticed a number of out-of-towners inspecting some of the 27 sculptures that were selected from more than 150 entries. (I know the gawkers were tourists because they were driving the wrong way on the one-way streets).
I would consider buying a sculpture, but I wouldn't want it donated to the city if it also wins the "Peoples' Choice" Contest. No offense to Eau Claire Parks and Rec, but I think the ceramic turtle would look cool in my front yard after its done with its tenure in front of the Eau Claire Childrens' Museum next to my office instead of being moved to another city park.
On the other hand, sponsors and donations are accepted and two funds hav been established by the Eau Claire Community Foundation to help support the project and provide longevity for the program. So maybe that's another way for me to ensure that I can see the turtle every day after its one-year stay is over.
For more information, contact the Eau Claire Community Foundationat (715) 552-3801 or VISIT Eau Claire at (715) 831-2345. And if you vote for the ceramic turtle, ask the city to keep it in its current location.