spreading the love

Northfield fused glass artist Gerie Thelen collaborated with Dale Lewis to create the 8-feet tall recycled metal tree (by Lewis), covered in multicolored fused glass hearts (by Thelen). “Spreading the Love” has a simple message: Tree = community, hearts = love of community, multicolored hearts equates to a welcoming message. (Photo courtesy of Mecca Page)

A sign on a sculpture made by Northfield fused glass artist Gerie Thelen’s sculpture in collaboration with Hastings artist Dale Lewis, reads “Tree = Community, Hearts = Love of Community and Multicolored Hearts = All are welcome.

Thelen came up with the idea to create an inviting work of art as a way to send a message to others that the local community of Northfield is a place where all people are welcome. The sculpture titled, “Spreading the Love,” is located on the corner of Sixth and Division streets.

The 8-feet tall recycled metal tree was constructed by Lewis and is covered with the multicolored, fused-glass hearts by Thelen.

Owner of Just Me Geralyn & Glass, Thelen created the multicolored hearts out of fused glass. She had an original deadline of March 2021 to finish the sculpture, but with all things considered, she felt it was really important to get the piece done sooner than that.

“I worked really, really hard to get it finished,” said Thelen. “Dale’s part was done pretty quickly. The hearts on each branch took two hours to make, and after that they fire for 15 hours. That’s why we had the longer timeline.”

“Spreading the Love” was made possible by Artists on Main Street, a partnership organized locally by the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation and the city of Northfield Arts and Culture Commission. Funding and other support is provided by Rethos: Places Reimagined, Springboard for the Arts and the Bush Foundation.

The NDDC received national accreditation through Main Street America this summer, meaning the NDDC is in the top tier of Main Street programs across the country, by demonstrating a commitment to comprehensive commercial district revitalization and a proven track record of successfully applying the four-point (Economic Vitality; Design; Promotion; Organization) Main Street Approach.

Find the hearts

Finding the heart of Northfield is another part of the project Thelen set up as a way to help out local businesses and make the downtown area part of the sculpture. She sent out a letter to all downtown businesses and offered them the opportunity to participate. At each participating business, participants in the scavenger hunt will find a heart that matches the hearts in the tree. Those interested in finding all hearts are encouraged to take part in the scavenger hunt. Thelen says the first five people who find all the hearts will receive a heart-shaped garden stake.

In an effort to continue “spreading the love,” artist Dale Lewis loaned one of his latest sculptures to the city of Northfield. According to a press release, the help of Library Director Teresa Jensen and the Northfield Arts and Culture Commission, the 9½-feet tall, 9-feet wide, 43-inch deep, 500 pound-$38,000 sculpture titled, “Straight to the Heart” was installed Oct. 15 at the corner of Hwy. 3 and Third Street. It will remain there until late April 2021.

Lewis decided to make the offer to the city of Northfield as a follow-up to the Oct. 6 installation at Armory Square of a collaborative tree sculpture, “Spreading the Love.”

“After finishing the heart tree, I thought, these two things go together,” said Lewis of his heart sculpture. “I thought it would drum up some interest in the arts in Northfield.”

Northfield Arts and Culture Commission Heather Lawrenz Chair adds one of the many purposes of the Arts & Culture Commission is to advocate for public art, such as “Spreading the Love,” that enhances the city’s appearance and appeal.

“The ACC has enjoyed partnering with the NDDC to provide Public Art Review Committees for the Artist on Main Street artist submissions the past two years,” she said.

Reach reporter Michelle Vlasak at 507-333-3128 or follow her on Twitter @apgmichelle. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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