ICAN intergenerational group tours sculpture park

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Jim Rux was impressed with the great detail each of the sculptures in the Mississippi River Sculpture Park had. When taking a tour last week, he fell in love with the exciting history he learned about his community.

Nicole Dilley had to hug and pose alone with each of the intricate figures in the sculpture park. (Photos by Correne Martin)

The artist responsible for the statues that have gone into the sculpture park, Florence Bird, showed pictures and explained to the ICAN visitors the process of making a clay, then bronzed sculpture.

Sculpture park board president Randy Paske shows Matt Roach how the augmented reality application on his smart phones helps to bring the statues to life to tell their stories.

The group posed by each one of the statues for a picture altogether with artist Florence Bird.

The group gathers around Emma Big Bear to see the great detail showcased in the sculpture, which was the last one installed in the park, in 2011.

Some of the intergenerational group members posed by the sculpture of Voyageur Julian Coryer at the Mississippi River Sculpture Park Aug. 7. Pictured (from left) are Charlie Marx, Nicole Dilley, the voyager statue, Darin Dilley, Matt Roach, Sculpturist Florence Bird, Deb Larson, Lisa Hendrix, Jim Rux, Scott Tippery, Lorrie Duff and Danny Dremsa.

By Correne Martin

A dozen local individuals with disabilities received a personalized tour of the Mississippi River Sculpture Park Aug. 7. The men and women from the Intergenerational Community Activity Network, aka the ICAN program, met Chief Blackhawk, Voyageur Julian Coryer, a Victorian Lady, Emma Big Bear, and Dr. William Beaumont and son Israel. They also learned about Aunt Marianne LaBuche (and baby Louisa), as well as the park board’s intention to install her as the next life-size bronze statue as soon as a finalizing $11,000 is collected in donations.

The morning visit started with an introduction by sculpture artist Florence Bird, who explained the purpose of the free, city-owned park: to bring to life the history of Prairie du Chien and how people of different cultures from all over the world came here on the river. She also discussed the process of creating a sculpture—from her research on the person to making the styrofoam maquette (model), enlarging it, adding clay, and eventually pouring hot bronze over it. 

Bird, and park board members, shared the stories behind each of the park’s current five statues, as well as the sixth that is in progress. They also talked about the 12 bronze plaques that surround the park’s fire ring; each plaque symbolizes one of the contrastive cultures the people of the past who came here represented. 

Then, the ICAN members walked around the 350-pound sculptures, taking note of the intricate details, asking more questions about their historical importance, and posing for pictures among them. 

While experiencing a seasonable summer morning among the whispers of the island these figures once wandered, the ICAN visitors were blown away by the incredible roles these characters held in the community’s past. 

They also enjoyed the augmented reality capabilities the park offers the public. Mississippi River Sculpture Park President Randy Paske showed them on his smartphone how, with the HP Reveal application, self-guiding park guests can point their mobile device camera at each of the statue’s descriptions, triggering a short video where the sculpture comes alive and personally tells his or her story. 

The morning wrapped up as each person took home an Emma Big Bear-style tote bag, hand-quilted by Kathy Paske and filled with information and tokens for the newest “honorary members” of the park.

The ICAN program is for all ages to enjoy field trips, activities, arts and crafts, fitness and more regularly through Hoffman Hall in Prairie du Chien. For more information, call 326-2985.

To learn how to contribute toward the Mississippi River Sculpture Park and the Aunt Marianne LaBuche statue, visit statuepark.org.

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