Photo: William Hurst
Big Rabbit and the Wolves
Ann Klefstad - October 2017
Big Rabbit and the Wolves by Ann Klefstad was the second mural installed in the recent art explosion in Lincoln Park. The story of this piece of art is as much about the art itself as the park area in which it resides.
As the revitalization of Lincoln Park started to take off, eyes were turned to the area known locally as “The Corner Park ” or “The Pocket Park” at Superior Street and 19th Avenue West. Public art was identified as the most desired amenity for that area by residents and business owners alike through a survey conducted by Ecolibrium3. Ann Klefstad, along with Shipwright & Carpenter John Finkle and artists Kirsten Aune and Scott Scheirbeck responded to a Request for Proposal (RFP) by the Lincoln Park Business Group (LPBG) with a group approach to adding art in the Corner Park. With Aune acting as project catalyst, each artist was responsible for one or more of the art assets. A stone and concrete retaining wall incorporating concrete benches adorned with tile and the busker stage, done in rot-resistant wood with a decorative metal scrim wall featuring the neighborhood logo were the creations of Aune and Scheirbeck. A torii gate with a taconite pathway serving as a ceremonial entrance to the park, executed in white cedar and stone was designed and built on site with community members by Finkle, and Big Rabbit and the Wolves, a mural along the building wall on the north side of park space was designed and painted by Klefstad.
Site prep, the elimination of inoperative lighting bollards, replacement of overgrown trees with prairie plantings, pruning and assessment of mature ash trees, and added electrical and trash bins were provided by the City of Duluth. The City’s offer of new picnic tables was graciously accepted by the Corner Park committee along with a request that the standard Parks beige tables be replaced with locally-made Loll tables and benches – so long as the cost was the same. The City granted the request and after a call to Loll by Bent Paddle’s Laura Mullen, the weathered and splintering picnic tables were replaced with a pop of bright red echoing Aune’s stage scrim and several other Loll pieces both inside and out throughout the district.
Mature ash trees along the street and avenue sides of the park were discovered to be infested with Emerald Ash Borer – a death sentence without treatment. Rather than removing the main source of shade for the area, the Bent Paddle agreed to pay for initial management of the pests and the LPBG agreed to take on the cost for ongoing treatment while the City took a staggered approach to tree replacement, ensuring continued shady areas of respite in the mini-park while smaller trees get established.
Big Rabbit and the Wolves was done over 4 days in rolled latex and spray paint (Krylon) directly onto the building, using paper stencils prepared in Klefstad’s studio. The finished size is roughly 6’ x 30’, and incorporates the plantings done below it, which become part of the plant rhythms of the painting.
The inspiration for Klefstad’s work came from a favorite story shared by an Ojibwe friend. Klefstad says, “The themes are the deep heroism of humor and strength and smarts, all working together. How each being has its own powers, and how we need to collaborate, sharing our powers, if we are going to create a viable, fun, and living community. It’s about such powers being both real and welcome—and how to recognize powers that are often unrecognized. Tales of the animals that all cultures tell are often about how to recognize unfamiliar powers, and how to honor powers that may seem humble, or insignificant, or useless—and to find ways to weave them into our community. In other words, the mural is about the diversity of functioning communities. And about fun!”
The mural’s theme is not only in sync with how the community came together to improve this corner of the neighborhood, but how Lincoln Park businesses and residents routinely work in concert to get things done. It should also be mentioned that although the building that hosts this mural has changed hands and been painted three times since the mural installation, each building owner has recognized the importance of it in the landscape of Lincoln Park public art and has taken care to keep it in place.
“The Pack is necessary to the Herd, the Herd is necessary to the Pack.”
– Ann Klefstad
Photos: Shannon Laing, William Hurst
Corner Park, 7 N 19th Avenue W (Corner Park-facing wall)