MANKATO — While Australian artist Guido van Helten isn’t releasing a sketch of what he will be painting on the Ardent Mills silos, he’s suggesting the region’s Dakota Indian heritage will play a significant role.
Van Helten is in Mankato to begin work this week on the 122-foot silos located along the Minnesota River next to the Veterans Memorial Bridge.
He visited last September and again this year to talk with residents, take photos and get to know the history of the community.
In a press release, van Helten says his visits to the Mahkato Pow Wow influenced his design.
“The concept is a summary of experiences, observations, and discoveries in color and culture in Mankato utilizing the Education Day at the Mahkato Pow Wow ... as a backdrop for the photographs on which the design of the mural is based,” he said.
“This design brings together the shared ideals of community, diversity, and inclusion; and it pays respect to history while encouraging a positive dialogue on the future identity of the Mankato area.”
The release said that through consultation with Native and non-Native leaders and community representatives, he worked with local photographer Sara Hughes to capture images that would illustrate community diversity, inclusion and participation.
“By experiencing the shared cultural experiences at the Mahkato Wacipi, van Helten found inspiration for the design at the Education Day.”
Van Helten has recently completed murals on Outback water towers in a drought stricken area of his home state of Queensland, Australia, in Poland, in Jordan and in Canada. He arrived in Mankato this week after working in Portugal.
“I’m pleased to be beginning this project here in Mankato. After quite some time planning and thinking about this piece, I have found so much inspiration in the area and have had experiences that support my ideas for quite possibly one of my largest artworks to date.”
The release said the mural “will be dynamic, with a comprehensible community focus that will echo the surrounding landscape and architecture. It is the intent for each viewer to derive their own meaning from the work; and it will ideally be an invitation for a fresh, direct and friendly dialogue to occur in the surrounding region as a result.”
Once complete, the Ardent Mills project will be seen from multiple points along the river and throughout downtown.
The mural project and fundraising was led by CityArt, a joint group made up of the City Center Partnership and the Twin Rivers Council for the Arts. Ardent Mills has also been a key backer in having the installation put on its silos.
Twin Rivers Council Director Noelle Lawton said in a statement she thinks the work will inspire a different view of the city.
“The movement and spirit of this piece speaks to unity and connection. It’s a simple and beautiful message for today. Our hope is that it will spark conversation and invite people to see Mankato from a new perspective.”
Discussing the two water tower murals he finished in neighboring towns in his home state, van Helten said on his Facebook page that he focused on the cultural importance of junior league sport in regional western Queensland as a way of bridging the divides of distance and cultural differences in rural Australia.
“Separated by 200 kilometres, Cunnamulla and Charleville are joined by a rivalry — a yearly two-sided tournament — which culminates in a grand final where they are destined to compete. Working on the two towns’ identical 30 meter water towers the photography project has led to a painted monument symbolizing the regional significance of a simple game.”