Not A Velociraptor, Lake Creature spotted in Lake Harriet, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2009, by QuoinMonkey. All photos © 2009 by QuoinMonkey and SkyWire7. All rights reserved.
Liz and I set out on my birthday to geocache around the Minneapolis chain of lakes. One of the joys of caching is the chance to learn about local history that might otherwise be swallowed by day-to-day routines. We dropped off two Travel Bugs and scooped up three caches that evening. Along the way, we headed over to the edge of Lake Harriet to listen to a full orchestra perform at the band shell and waved to passengers on the retro streetcar rumbling along tracks that stretched all the way from Minneapolis to Lake Harriet in the 1880s.
Perched high on glacial debris, Lake Harriet was formed when continental glaciers spread over Minnesota during the Great Ice Ages. Starting with the Mississippi River channel at the Plymouth Avenue Bridge, a preglacial valley runs almost directly south beneath Lake of the Isles, Lake Calhoun, and Lake Harriet to the Minnesota River at Bloomington. Lake Harriet lies 250 feet over this ancient valley filled by glacial deposits, and is nestled between hills that piled up when the ice front paused in its final retreat about 10,000 years ago.
At dusk, we were making our way home when Liz spotted a shadow skimming the lake surface with a shape much like Dino, the Flintstones’ pet dinosaur, or a distant relative of the Loch Ness monster. Quickly pulling over to the side of the road, we scooted down the hillside Indiana Jones style, and landed right smack dab next to the Minneapolis Lake Creature. Had it risen from the depths of a preglacial valley?
Several fishermen paddled behind the creature oblivious to any danger; we decided it was safe to approach. The air smelled like honey, the night quiet and breezy — no mosquitoes. The sun fell behind the oaks, ash, and elm. A couple on a tandem bike stopped to photograph the 13-foot creature. Kids could not resist leaning over the edge of the rails to get a closer look. “I wonder if it’ll move,” one boy said. “Yeah, we wouldn’t be standing here for long!” his sister replied.
Everyone was drawn to the mystery — the power of public art.
After Lake Creature’s mysterious appearance in Lake Harriet on July 8th, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation came forward on July 16th to formally announce that it was the sponsor of a special art project in the parks with its first sculpture being the collaboration with New York City artist Cameron Gainer who now resides in Minneapolis. According to Cecily Hines, President of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation:
The Minneapolis Parks Foundation and artist Cameron Gainer came together because of our shared passion for the arts and belief that public works of art can truly enrich a community and the lives of its residents. We are proud to bring that passion and belief to life with Gainer’s _[ and invite people to share in her beauty while enjoying the Minneapolis parks with family and friends.
Gainer’s work includes film, video, sculpture, and performance art and explores human perception and the notion of “cinema inside out” when you encounter something in an environment and are not exactly sure what you are looking at. Symbolically titled _[, Lake Creature is based on the iconic, “Surgeon’s Photo” of 1934 that was presented as evidence of the existence of Scotland’s Loch Ness monster. Though later proven to be a hoax, the photograph remains a universal representation of the mystical lake creature.
In support of the Arts, the Minneapolis Parks Foundation has also established a new Public Arts Fund to support future art projects in Minneapolis parks. The Foundation believes that public art is important, especially in tough times, and can make a difference in a community’s quality of life. Public art is not only free, it’s accessible and:
Φ inspires imagination
Φ can be enjoyed by all age groups
Φ helps foster a sense of community and mutual enjoyment
Φ accesses audiences that may not be going to art museums
Φ allows people to encounter art in their environment which creates an unexpected “moment of access”
Φ creates opportunities to reach audiences not expecting to see art which increases appreciation for the Arts
Lake Creature At Sunset, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2009, by SkyWire7. All photos © 2009 by SkyWire7 and QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
The Lake Creature project leads me to think of Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk, another public art project collaboration between Saint Paul Public Works and the City of Saint Paul. These projects are living reminders of how the Arts matter and I’m grateful to all the people and organizations that make them possible.
_[ has been seen in New York City, the Salt Marsh Nature Preserve in Brooklyn, and Key West, Florida and is making plans to explore another Minneapolis lake sometime this summer. Keep your eyes peeled on a lake near you.
There is also a storytelling contest to name the Lake Creature and create the mythology surrounding her life. What nickname would you give to the Lake Creature? You can enter the contest and tell your story at Nickname the Lake Creature.
-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, August 5th, 2009