Loppet art installation caught in permit snafu

FestivalÂ’s permit covers sculptures in ice, not wood, Park Board says

A nighttime view of the prototype for Peter MacDonald's Loppet art piece taken during its temporary lakeshore installation in December. Credit: Submitted image

UPDATE: Loppet spokesperson Kristen Spargo said the permitting issue for Peter  MacDonald’s art installation had been resolved as of Tuesday evening.

“The sculpture will be allowed to remain standing as part of the Loppet,” Spargo wrote in an email.

EAST ISLES — The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board threatened to remove an art installation created for the City of Lakes Loppet Ski Festival, its creator said Tuesday.

Peter MacDonald, an environmental architect who lives just across the Minneapolis border in St. Louis Park, said he was given permission by festival organizers to install an art piece constructed of salvaged wood on the frozen surface of Lake of the Isles. The lake is the site of the Luminary Loppet, a nighttime ski past lit luminaria that is the festival’s most popular event.

The Park Board requires a permit for a temporary art installation on parkland, which includes the frozen surface of Minneapolis lakes. The Loppet Foundation’s permit covers luminaria made of ice but not wooden sculptures, spokesperson Robin Smothers said

“A permit is required otherwise we would have all kinds of stuff on the lakes,” Smothers said.

She added that the Park Board staff who handle permitting were reviewing the matter Tuesday afternoon.

MacDonald said the Park Board was being “very aggressive” in its handling of the matter, threatening to remove the sculptures with a chainsaw and wood chipper if he didn’t take them down himself. He was off the ice Tuesday afternoon on an errand and didn’t know if the sculptures were still standing.

MacDonald said a prototype of the sculpture installed on the lakeshore in late December was “unceremoniously” cut down and removed, and at the same time a trailer full of word-working tools disappeared. He acknowledged he didn’t have permission from either the Park Board or the Loppet Foundation for the installation then, although the foundation later gave him the OK.

He said he found the pieces of the prototype in a Dumpster near Parade Ice Stadium.

“There seems to be a viciousness to this I don’t understand,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald said he salvaged the wood for his installation from a managed wood lot and transported the pieces down to the lake by bicycle and trailer. He said the theme of the work is “tabernacle,” and that the wooden forms are intended to resemble the human figure.

“It took me two weeks to set it up and a month to build it off site,” he said.

It has impressed some passers-by, including Greg Hackett of Linden Hills who stopped during a weekend ski on Lake of the Isles to admire MacDonald’s work.

“I’ve enjoyed it,” Hackett said.