The Monticello swan population continues to grow. The newest additions, however, aren’t fair-weather Monticelloans like the majority of the birds that make the Mississippi River their home in winter. Instead, the two stainless steel swans, sculpted by local artist Sue Seeger, will be a Monticello mainstay for years to come.
The swan sculptures, located at the Hwy. 25 and Co. Rd. 75 intersection in downtown Monticello, were unveiled to the public with a short ceremony last Thursday morning.
The sculpture reveal continues a concerted effort from the city of Monticello to increase art in the community and to help beautify downtown.
“This truly is important and monumental for this community,” City Administrator Jeff O’Neill told the gathered crowd.
The sculptures are the second project that Seeger has worked on for the city. She also created and donated a deer made out of recycled mountain bike parts for Montiview Park.
“I love working with the city of Monticello. Down to a person. Every single volunteer, city administration person, city council, everyone I’ve encountered in the city of Monticello has been positive and excited about what cool things can happen in the city of Monticello,” said Seeger. “It’s a really good time for Monticello right now.”
The artist has been sculpting for 20 years but only doing public art for the last few years. Seeger said she feels very strongly about public art, and has enjoyed being able to contribute to pieces around the Twin Cities metro in recent years.
“I feel public art democratizes art, it makes it accessible and enjoyable for everyone,” said Seeger.
The Elk River resident also said she was both inspired and challenged by Monti’s art history, which includes several pieces (including the swans outside the Monticello Community Center) by Parker McDonald.
“He’s someone I’ve always considered to be a true master of metal sculptures,” said Seeger. “So the bar was set high.”
Citizens and city officials at the public unveiling were of the opinion that Seeger cleared the bar. Person after person came by to congratulate her on her work, commending the beauty of the swan sculptures.
The swans stand in two different, friendly, and even playful poses, and are designed to work in different positions should they need to be moved in the future. They are made entirely out of stainless steel, down to their intricately designed feet, and stand between 3 and 4 feet tall.
Seeger said it was a unique animal to work with.
“They’re a large, impressive bird,” she said. “As a sculptor working with them, their graceful lines and the fluidity of their motions that they’re able to do make them an interesting subject for a sculpture.”
The first step to the new sculptures, which feature landscaping around them, came back in August of 2016 when the EDA authorized landscaping improvements at the southeast corner of the intersection. EDA commissioners then approved $5,000 to fund the sculpture back in March. Per a city of Monticello press release, additional funding came from the Ellison family, and the artist herself.
The project intended to build on a theme of other wildlife art in the community. In addition to the new sculpture, Monticello is home to a swan sculpture at the Monticello Community Center, a deer at Montiview Park, and an otter at Otter Creek Park. It was also designed with the idea to positively impact one of the busiest intersections in town.
EDA President Bill Demeules spoke at the unveiling Thursday, and told the gathered crowd that this project, along with the updates to the intersection at Hwy. 25 and 7th St., help to make for an inviting corridor through downtown Monticello.
“It really sets Monticello apart,” said Demeules.
Seeger said it was an honor to have the opportunity to work on a project that has such strong community ties, and figures to be a part of the community for a long time to come.
“Swans are such a big part of the town’s identity,” she said. “I wanted something that the town could be very proud of, and that would have a wide appeal to everybody.”
Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]