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Green Lake sculpture creates new landmark in Spicer, Minn.

Art Norby designed a sculpture that was installed Tuesday morning in Spicer's downtown park on Green Lake. The Spicer Beautification Committee commissioned the project using funds generated from last year's Fish Gone Wild artists' auction. A public dedication will be held at 6 p.m. June 3. Root beer floats will be served as part of the celebration. (Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange)

Thirty-five years of Art Norby's artwork is scattered in galleries and private homes throughout the world.

His latest piece is now on the shores of Green Lake in Spicer.

A public dedication will be held at 6 p.m. June 3.

The sculptor and painter, who has deep roots in Willmar and now lives in New London after establishing studios and galleries throughout the country, is especially well-known for his bronze sculptures, including incredibly detailed likenesses of children, dancers, musicians and cowboys.

He said he's created more than 600 sculptures in the vein of what he calls "feel good" art.

Minnesotans may be familiar with his work if they've been to the grounds of the state Capitol where the larger-than-life "Minnesota Korean War Veterans Memorial" stands. The somber pieces are "melancholy," said Norby, but are not designed to create gut-wrenching anguish or sadness.

Many of his pieces are decorative and void of social or political statements, he said.

Shortly after moving back to Minnesota, Norby was contacted by members of Spicer's Beautification Committee who wanted a permanent sculpture of a fish erected in the city park.

They were hoping the $8,000 raised last year during the "Fish Gone Wild" art sculpture promotion and auction could be used to purchase a sculpture designed by Norby.

Typically, Norby's bronze sculptures sell in the neighborhood of $30,000 to $40,000.

Norby also told the committee: "I don't do ducks," meaning that he's not a wildlife artist and making a replica of a walleye or crappie wasn't in his line of work.

But Norby said he had a plan that would incorporate his eye for design and style with local manufacturers and the committee's budget.

The result is a contemporary piece of art made of welded steel and glazed in a bronze-color.

It's not literally a fish.

But it could be.

Or it could be the sail of a boat.

Or it could be an anchor or a fish hook.

The design is simple and sleek, yet complicated in its gentle curves and differing widths.

"It might be a little bit fishy," Norby said.

He thought about adding an eye or a gill to the sculpture to give it a more defined fish look but determined it would be too "hokey" or "cute."

He said it was best to let the viewer decide what the sculpture is.

The 8½-foot tall sculpture was installed early Tuesday morning on a 3-foot tall pedestal. During an hour-long interview on a park bench Tuesday afternoon at least four people came to look or touch the sculpture.

"I like it," said Norby, who's pleased with the look of the sculpture and pleased he could give something back to the community.

He said he knows that "everybody who sees it isn't going to love it" but hopes that this new landmark will be something that serves as a backdrop for family photos. He also hopes its presence in the city park will prompt the placement of additional sculptures in public places, which he said could enhance local tourism.

Although Norby designed the sculpture, it was actually made by local manufacturers including Lorenz Manufacturing in Benson that cut the 10-gauge steel, Hanson Silo Company of Lake Lillian that applied the power-coated paint and finish, and Double J Masonry of New London that made the base.

Norby said he's "driven to be active" and his goal is simply to "make nice art."

He said loves what he does and at 73 years of age he intends to keep working full-time until he turns 80, and then he'll cut back to half-time.

"I've just enjoyed being an artist," he said. "I so enjoy what I do."

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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