Yard Art

Forget the Sculpture Garden– Southwest residents are installing masterpieces on their own lawns

Move over pink flamingoes. In Southwest, the days of simple plastic lawn ornaments may be numbered. Yards are becoming galleries for serious artistic expression.

From Lake of the Isles to Kingfield, property owners have erected metal zebras, intricate wood carvings and abstract sculptures.

The bronze Great Blue Heron, created by Dan Ostermiller in Penny George’s yard, gives people walking around the north side of Lake of the Isles a glimpse of the beautiful bird.

"I love walking around Lake of the Isles and getting this wonderful encounter with this incredible bird," she said. "We were going to put it in our backyard but then we sort of thought of this as a gift to the community.

"Even in seasons when there aren’t really any herons, I hope it will remind people what a jewel we have in these city lakes where herons are still safe to come."

People walking along 1st Avenue South will see a much tamer animal– a zoo-bred zebra. Steve Bateman, a former student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, created the entire animal from found objects — an old Volkswagen hubcap, electrical wires and rods of all kinds.

When Vi and Ralf Runquist first brought "Escape from the Zoo" to the front of their building off 24th Street, they worried if such an extraordinary animal would be accepted into the neighborhood.

"He’s been in the neighborhood for four years," Vi said. "Some people get their picture taken with him. Some take special trips from the Institute of Arts to see him. It’s sort of like he belongs to this neighborhood. He’s been noticed, that’s for sure, but he’s also been accepted."

Further south, neighbors are displaying wooden abstracts.

Five years ago, John Sundeen surprised his wife, Tricia, with a wooden cubist-like piece–inspired by something he had seen in the Kenwood neighborhood.

"It was originally going to be 10 feet tall but he cut it down– thank God," Tricia said, laughing. "People walk by all the time to look at it."

Their cat doesn’t like it quite as much — it’s used mainly as a scratching post.

Zoran Mojsilov, who lives off 41st Street and Blaisdell Avenue, knew he would be able to use his sculpting talents on the tree in front of his home.

"We were living in this house for 10 years before we cut the tree," he said. "Everyday going in and out of the house, I said this would one day be a great sculpture–because the tree was so beautiful with all the curved branches."

Mojsilov has been sculpting for 20 years, and right now is working on a 40,000-pound boulder in Franconia Sculpture Park outside of Taylors Falls. He said he likes working with wood, but he doesn’t always use it because it doesn’t last forever.

"If I do projects for the government, they want it to last for a really long time," he said. "Wood eventually rots and disappears. I try to use wood for indoor sculptures."

But he said his personal wood sculpture will last long enough in his front yard for him–and it’s available for anyone driving by to view.

"There’s too little public art in this city," said George, who put up the Great Blue Heron last summer. "We are doing our bit to up the level of public art."