National Trout Learning Center Director Heath Sershen looks on as Lanesboro artist Paul Lambrecht unveils a sculpture he donated to the National Trout Center in Preston. Around 20 people attended the unveiling event on Saturday.  PHOTO BY ANTON ADAMEK/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS
National Trout Learning Center Director Heath Sershen looks on as Lanesboro artist Paul Lambrecht unveils a sculpture he donated to the National Trout Center in Preston. Around 20 people attended the unveiling event on Saturday. PHOTO BY ANTON ADAMEK/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPERS
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In celebration of the trout fishing season opener and recent season opener of the National Trout Learning Center in downtown Preston, a newly donated sculpture was unveiled at the center on Saturday, April 13.

The main floor of the National Trout Center (NTC) was crowded with around 20 people who witnessed the unveiling of local Lanesboro artist Paul Lambrecht's artwork he chose to give to the center. A KSMQ-PBS television crew for the Off 90 program was on-hand to document the proceedings for a future story on the NTC.

Director of Operations Heath Sershen thanked Lambrecht for the hand-carved wood sculpture, which portrays trout swimming through a driftwood environment with a stream-bed underlying it all.

Board member George Spangler said he was, "very pleased with the sculpture," and that, "It will be a conversation piece for years to come." Spangler also noted how the sculpture integrated the cultural influence trout have on artists, which "enriches the lives of people in Minnesota."

Lambrecht has been involved in outdoor-themed, wood-based sculpting for 33 years. He grew up in Watertown, Minn, which is around 30 miles west of Minneapolis. Growing up, Lambrecht knew he would be an artist. Wildlife fascinated and inspired him. He continues to show that through his work.

When he and his family moved to Lanesboro, Lambrecht based all his work out of the house. During the summer, he will move some of his work outside. He said he spends around 60 hours per week on sculptures he will then sell at art shows locally and across the nation. Lambrecht said he overbooks his summers and then picks and chooses which shows he will go to. Many are competitive to gain a booth, but Lambrecht has built good relationships and gets invited back to several shows each year.

"People are more into the raw-edge and one-of-a-kind pieces," he stated. Lambrecht also said consumers are becoming more paticular and savvier about the art they like. "I constantly need to stay abreast of what will sell better."

Currently, birds are popular. Keeping up is important since Lambrecht said he often thinks about project one to two years in advance of actually completing them. He also works on commissioned pieces, although not as often as those he personally sells.

The sculpture he donated to the NTC was made possible through an artist initiative grant he applied for over a year ago from the Minnesota State Arts Board. It was the fourth project for which he had received funding from the organization which provides artist support.

"I usually receive everyone I apply for," he mentioned. The grant was funded in part by the Minnesota State Legislature through the state's Art and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Lambrecht said he was inspired to share this particular sculpture with others, before he even created it. "The NTC is a great asset to the community," he shared. "This will be something people like to see."

Lambrecht had called Spangler on the same day the grant application was due, to see if the NTC would accept the sculpture as a gift. "I was a little hesitant at first because the NTC board consults together on decisions," shared Spangler.

After finding out Lambrecht needed to know right that minute, Spangler took what he considered was a risk and agreed to display the sculpture, whatever it might be. A year later, Lambrecht called Spangler again to let him know he had received the grant and would be creating a trout sculpture.

"I started getting nervous, because I didn't know what it would look like," said Spangler.

Three months ago, Lambrecht called again to say that he had completed the sculpture. "He brought it over and it was concealed. I was on pins and needles," said Spangler. When he finally got to see the completed work, however, he was nothing less than delighted.

The sculpture incorporates what Spangler called "a true-to-life capture of the moving water element." The three variety of trout found throughout Southeast Minnesota are all included in the sculpture. These are the rainbow, brown and brook trout. The riverbed stones were made out of walnut, cherry, oak, maple, butternut and osage wood.

Lambrecht said all wood used in the sculpture was from within a 25-mile radius of Lanesboro. The driftwood in the piece was collected from various spots along the Root River. Each one of the fish was made out of basswood, painted with acrylics and lacquered.

All in all, the sculpture stands three feet high and four feet long. "It's intricacy and design are astounding," remarked Sershen. "It accurately represents the trout in the area."

The sculpture will be on display at the NTC for visitors during normal hours. One may learn more about the trout center and its programming at its website nationaltroutcenter.org.