Harmony artist asks council to support vision for carved musicians
Wednesday, August 21, 2013 3:15 AM
Stanley "Slim" Maroushek, owner of Slim's Woodshed, attended last Tuesday evening's Harmony City Council meeting hoping that the council would support his vision for an art project he received grant money to create. Along with Harmony's economic development coordinator, Chris Giesen, and supporter Ralph Beastrom, Maroushek explained the project and hoped the council would support his plans for locating his sculptures throughout Harmony's downtown area.
This concertina player is the first wood carved musician in the series being created by Stanley "Slim" Maroushek. He hopes to complete a series of musicians that will be located throughout town.
First of all, Giesen explained that Maroushek had approached him in April about helping submit a grant application to the Southern Minnesota Arts Council (SEMAC) that would allow Maroushek to produce two wood-carved statues. The carvings would be the next two additions to his "Musicians of Harmony" collection. The first of the collection is the accordion player located on the southeast corner of Center and Main. The grant request was for $10,000 to fund a tuba player and a saxophone player.
Giesen explained that the grant was part of the Minnesota Legacy Fund and had to be utilized by a unit of government or a non-profit organization, which is why the city became involved in the application. The funds must also be used for a project that must be for "the public benefit."
In May, the city council allowed Maroushek to go forward with the grant application and asked the Harmony Arts Board to oversee the project details. In addition, the arts board also dedicated $3,000 of its own funds to meet the 20 percent match requirement of the grant.
In addition to the two statues being funded by this grant and the current musician already located in town, Maroushek also obtained a grant on his own to fund a fourth statue. He explained he would like to do another so there would be total of five musicians in the collection.
His vision would be to have the statues located at various locations throughout the downtown area so that visitors to Harmony could easily take a walking tour to visit each of the statues, taking them past businesses on Main Street and to his own business on First Street Northwest.
He would like the second and third statues to be located on the sidewalk next to Harmony Foods and on the green area in front of the Harmony Township building. Maroushek has talked with both the owners of Harmony Foods and the township board officers and all are agreeable to those placements.
However, Giesen explained, a conflict between the arts board and Maroushek has developed because the arts board would like to see the two statues that are being developed by the $10,000 SEMAC grant located at the Visitor Center and the Cancer Support Park. These two locations would get a statue once all the musicians were completed, but Maroushek feels they should be the last locations due to the fact that visitors to Harmony are likely to visit the Visitor Center anyway.
Beastrom presented a draft of a walking tour brochure, outlining the route one would take to visit the musician statues. The brochure would also include information about the artist and a description of each musician.
It is also a hope that once visitors complete the loop of musicians, they would continue on to visit the hobo statues, located near the north playground at the trailhead.
Giesen explained that the arts board and Maroushek seem to be at an impasse and Maroushek was hoping the city council could help determine where the statues would go and put and end to the conflict.
Council member Lynn Mensink, also a member of the arts board, explained that part of the reason they were hesitant to put the statues on the sidewalk by the grocery store was due to blocking the sidewalk as well as being an additional liability for the city. She added that there was also a concern about the statues being vandalized and properly maintained.
"In July, the arts council had an intense conversation," Mensink continued. "We voted to put the statues at the visitor center and at the cancer park. That was not agreeable to Slim."
Maroushek and Beastrom noted that there is already a bench located on the north side of Harmony Foods and the statue base would not exceed the width of the bench. Maroushek estimates the base of the tuba player to be 30 inches and the base of the saxophone player to be 18 inches. He assured the council that each statue would be secured to the ground with concrete bases, just as the hobo statues are.
Beastrom told the council that he envisioned the statue standing next to the bench, which would provide a great place for visitors to sit for a photo with the musician.
He also agreed with Maroushek and stated that he, too, feels it is more important to place the first few statues downtown rather than at the Visitor Center. "People come to the Visitor Center when they first come into town. Bikers come to the Visitor Center when they come in on the trail. I think it's more critical to get those in front of the four corners of downtown," Beastrom added.
Maroushek also voiced his frustration with the arts board, saying he felt they had left him out of the discussion regarding placement of the statues. "I'm the guy who came up with the idea," he said. "I don't want to be washed out of it."
Even though the $10,000 for the two statues has been approved, Maroushek said he won't accept those funds until his vision is approved. He said he would not do the project if he could not put them in the locations he prefers in the order in which he creates the statues.
Mayor Steve Donney interjected, "He's the one building the statues and I think we need to respect where he would like to put them. I'd rather have them built than have him not build them because we can't agree where to put them."
While the discussion continued regarding the location, the city council members didn't have as much issues with the placement of the statues as much as overturning the decision the Arts Board had already made.
"I appreciate what Slim wants to do," said council member Jim Bakken. "But I don't feel right about undermining the Arts Board's opinion."
Deb Swenson agreed saying, "I think we need to stay with what the Arts Board wants."
Donney countered, "I think this is Slim's vision and not the Art Council's. I'm not sure when the lack of communication came in, but I don't think it's a slap in the face for the arts council if we let Slim put the statues where he wants."
"If I can't do it my way, for my vision, I won't finish the project," Maroushek told the council as the discussion began to subside. "I've brought thousands of people into this town. I think I've been an asset for 16 years. I am trying to do something that gets people to walk down Main Street, past the businesses. I think I should be allowed to do what I want, the way I planned."
The council voted on a motion to allow Maroushek to continue on with the creation of his musicians and to place them where he proposed. However, the council came to a tie vote with Bakken and Swenson voting against and Jerry Shuck and Donney voting for. Mensink abstained. The motion failed.
When asked for her reasons for abstaining, Mensink explained that she felt she was between a rock and a hard place. "I'm on the arts board. They voted on it and decided where we'd like them," she said.
Mensink added that if she was voting, it would have to be to vote no, which would have caused the motion to fail as well.
Donney stated that he did not want Maroushek's project to fail and urged Mensink to call a special meeting of the Arts Board so it could work this out with Maroushek.
According to Jerome Ill, city administrator, that meeting was held on Monday night, but nothing was decided as there was a lack of quorum for the Arts Board.