2014-2016 Watab Creek Park, Sartell, Minnesota
The Sartell Mill Functional Art project will be implemented based on careful research of both materials and historical relevance of the Verso Paper Mill. The community is currently watching 100 years tumble down, and this is the only attempt to actively obtain and utilize the parts of the mill that tells a story.
Each artist selected created works based on their interaction with mill employees and community members. They researched the history of the mill, and with their individual aesthetic point of view, created strong design ideas that the community will benefit from for years to come.
The timing of this project was very delicate. We were responding to the fact that the mill is coming down and will no longer be part of the skyline by winter of 2015. The demolition site was massive, and the demolition company was very cooperative to let us tour the space several times, and tag the items that may be useful to the project. Developing trust and a relationship with an international company is a noteworthy achievement and we are grateful for their cooperation.
We found it especially illuminating when the coal shaft ignited on August 6th, just two days after our artist tour. This enabled us to see first hand the emotional responses of those who have lived in the community or worked in the mill. One post said, "Pit in the stomach and a lump in my throat all over again." This made us realize the impact of this building. It is not only a place of work, but a symbol of place and purpose. Anything we, as the artists, can do to give the community something to touch and see, will be worth it.
Documenting and honoring the history of the mill and its workers through a grant from the Central Minnesota Arts Board is an opportunity that only happens once in a lifetime.
The creative team for this project brings together different aesthetics and career levels to make this project a dynamic opportunity for the city of Sartell.