Cities and villages across the U.S are revitalizing their communities with public art and gardens. They are creating sculpture tours and garden parks that add vibrancy to their downtowns. All three of these case studies change out their art so it remains fresh for residents and visitors alike. Let’s do it here!
Eau Claire, WI has an outdoor sculpture tour that’s been a great success for 12 years. We spoke with city staff to understand what the impact has been on their community.
Eau Claire’s sculpture tour was started by a non-profit group in 2010. It has 55 sculptures with plans to expand to 75 or 80 sculptures. It is the 2nd largest sculpture tour in the county and will soon be the largest. You can see the sculptures at SculptureTour.org.
The sculptures have had a tremendous effect on business, driving tourism and making Eau Claire a destination city. The sculptures get the most clicks in the city’s tourism website. Questions about the sculptures top the list of questions they answer.
The sculptures have boosted sales for local business and are a powerful force in the redevelopment of the downtown. Employers point to the public artwork as a reason they have been able to attract employees to the area. People want to live and work in Eau Claire.
When travel writers are shown around Eau Claire they see the breweries and wineries, but it’s the sculptures they write about.
Eau Claire residents rave about the sculptures. They’ve added to the quality of life in the city. The sculptures provide free art that is available to everyone regardless of language, economics, or the color of their skin. It’s contributed to an active lifestyle and it’s raised property values in the city.
The sculpture tour has been so successful it’s no longer run by a non-profit. The sculpture tour director was brought into the tourism department as paid staff. And the city now runs the program.
Cities and villages around the country are starting sculpture parks and walks like Eau Claire’s. The sculptures not only improve the quality of life, but they bring economic benefits that far outweigh the costs.
A public art walk in Red Wing has totally turned around their economy — and in good way. Business is booming as a result of the downtown sculptures and other initiatives. Check out their site here.
Red Wing, MN reached out to Eau Claire, WI for help establishing their art walk. Eau Claire is in contact with over 800 artists across the country, and has years of experience working with regional and national artists. They helped launch Red Wing’s art initiative, which has been a huge success!
In 2021, even with the pandemic, Red Wing businesses had their best year EVER due to the sculptures and other downtown programs.
Organizers of the art walk say it has been “space making,” and that people fall in love with their town and its spaces. Both residents and visitors thoroughly enjoy the art walk and are more likely to stop in at businesses as they view the free public art.
In Red Wing, sculptures are placed along sidewalks in front of businesses and in downtown parks, like Central Park. The city started small in 2021 with seven sculptures leased from Eau Claire. Two more were purchased because of the success of the art walk. Individuals and businesses raised funds for two permanent art installations, including one called “Synchronous.”
“Synchronous” was created by two teachers and their high school students. One is an art teacher, and the other an auto mechanics teacher — a blending of art and industry.
The sculptures have brought people together from all walks of life. It’s been a joint venture of city employees, governmental bodies, arts organizations, businesses, foundations, and schools.
They also work with Main Street America, a nationwide program that revitalizes older and historic commercial districts. They came together for a common vision and goal — to strengthen their city and bolster their local economy. It’s worked and we can do it here in Oregon!
The Stevens Point Park is owned and operated by the City of Stevens Point under the guidance of an all-volunteer committee. It started in 2010 and has been going strong ever since. It’s part of the Stevens Point park system. The park is open year-round.
The Sculpture Park has 20 acres of natural landscape (green space and trees) with free art exhibits on walking trails, along with planned activities and educational programs. See their sculptures.
This is a destination park that is internationally recognized and even listed on websites in England (for example). The art is from local, state, national and international artists. The park currently holds about 40 sculptures. Every year they add about 3 to 5 sculptures. Some are rotated out and some are permanent installations that have been purchased with donations.
As the park has grown, it’s garnered much media attention, increasing tourism and the quality of life for residents in the community. The park is known as one of those places that drives interest for both local residents and visitors from afar. It gives people a sense of place. There are some sculptures that you can only find in the Stevens Point Sculpture Park. When people take their pictures with the art pieces, and post them online, others know this is unique to Stevens Point.
The Sculpture Park is accessible to all ages and people from diverse population groups. There is an educational team that brings thousands of students through the park each year. This team has one volunteer for every school in the city. They handle age groups from kindergarten through college.
The teachers work with students to create temporary art displays that are hung between trees, like tin can chimes, wire art frames, coated paper mache art, yarn creations, and bird displays. These projects are brought into the school curriculum and students learn all aspects of the creation phases, both before and after visiting the park.
The Sculpture Park volunteers also intentionally reach out to different pockets of individuals in the community for diversity in programming. This past year, they created a team from the Polish Heritage Society, Boys and Girls Club of Portage County, the Hmong Uplift Organization, the young professional’s Ignite group, and a local bike club affiliated with the Point Area Bicycle Service.
They worked with these five groups to create cast iron pieces. They taught them how to make sand castings and then pour the molten iron into the sand cast, to end up with a cast iron piece. It was an excellent program that enchanced lifelong learning in the community. And the art pieces were put on display in the park.
The Sculpture Park has been an incredible asset to the city of Stevens Point. It has improved people’s health and wellness, engaged the community in lifelong learning, helped tourism, and drawn people together who would not normally know each other. It bridges the gap that can exist within different groups in a city, creating a sense of unity and identity. We can do it in Oregon!