Mill Stone Mosaic: Honoring history, the natural environment and the community of New London, Minn.
The original grist mill that ground wheat into flour at New London’s mill decades ago was much smaller and ordinary looking than the colorful glass mosaic that is being constructed near the site of old mill stream.
But the summer-long project, which has involved at least 100 volunteers, has brought the community together in a unified goal much like the original mill stone did.
“We’re doing great art,” said Kristin Allen, a New London visual artist who’s been involved with the town’s community art efforts. “But this is more about building community.”
Composed of a steel frame that was covered in mesh and then slathered with cement, Allen and lead artist Melissa Gohman were nearly done hand-placing small bits of colored glass on the large wheel during an interview last week.
Applying the glass to the mesh panels, which feature animals including a heron, fox and turtle, started on July 5.
The project will be done in time for the dedication on Sept. 19 — the same day that the fire sculpture will be unveiled.
“It’s one piece of glass at a time so it’s a practice in patience,” Gohman said,
As part of the town’s river space project, Allen said all the projects the community takes on are designed to meet three basic tenets of honoring the history of the area, recognizing the value of the natural environment and engaging the community.
The inner part of the wheel features mirrored glass that will allow spectators to reflect on the history and future of the community.
“This is a great project and I have a lot of pride in the principals of this project,” Allen said.
As for the real mill stone — it’s been embedded in a community gathering space on the riverbank at the bottom of the Mill Pond Dam, just a short walk from the mosaic and near the fire sculpture.
Surrounded by old bricks that were manufactured in Kandiyohi County, the mill stone will eventually have native plants growing around it.
When that part of the project is done, Allen said people will be able to sit around the old mill stone and “feel rather cloistered there.”
The various community art projects undertaken in New London in the past year have been made possible with the help of a hefty ArtPlace America grant.
That grant money has been used to attract additional grant money, including one from the Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council.