MANKATO — Lavonne and Robert Ulrich received an early anniversary gift from their five children, who chose a living room set to honor their parents’ 60 years of marriage.
The couple, however, won't be bringing the furniture to their home in Mesa, Arizona. The couch, chair and ottoman sit outside on Second Street day and night for everyone to enjoy.
The living room arrangement is a work of art created out of metal and found objects. “Vermont Winter Pastoral” is No. 8 on this year’s CityArt walking sculpture. The couple’s anniversary present was a $2,000 contribution to cover expenses while the sculpture is displayed outdoors at Second and Walnut streets.
The Arizona Ulriches were in Mankato recently to visit with family members and to try out the couch and chair for the first time. Both Lavonne and Robert were delighted.
“Our anniversary is Oct. 9. We found out (about the sculpture scholarship) in February. It’s very nice, we did not expect it,” Robert said.
“We have a chair like that in our living room,” Lavonne said, looking at one of the the rust-brown sections of the installation.
Dawn Ulrich-Spitzer, the couple’s eldest child, is chairwoman for the sculpture walk. She and her siblings, Brett of North Dakota, Lisa Ulrich Hepola of Ohio, Carie of Dallas and Sara of Portland, Oregon, pooled their resources for the public honor.
The Ulrich family sponsorship was the first of its kind for the area sculpture walk.
“Typically, we have corporate sponsorships,” said Noelle Lawton, special initiatives coordinator with City Center Partnership. “Smaller contributions certainly would be accepted.”
There are two sponsorship levels, $2,000 for full and $1,000 for shared.
A sidewalk plaque displays a list of Ulriches, along with the name of the sculpture’s creator and her artist statement.
Kat Clear, a Michigan artist who grew up in Vermont, intended the sculpture to represent an emotional response to nature and a way to bring a living room landscape outside.
Ulrich-Spitzer said Clear’s work is a fitting tribute.
“My parents love life and are always having people over to their house for visits and game playing. Their house is always active, which is why the living room furniture is so appropriate for representing their 60 years of marriage," she said.
“My parents have four grandsons and four granddaughters and one great-granddaughter. We get together as often as we can. The Ulriches love to play games — board games and card games."
Lavonne and Robert grew up in Wilton, North Dakota. At an anniversary celebration a few years before the couple moved to their current home two decades ago, the Ulriches received a vacation trip to Arizona from their children.
Similar to the announcement about the scholarship, the earlier anniversary gift was given as a surprise.
“They acted everything out in Charades in our living room, but we just didn’t get it,” Lavonne said.
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