Looking over Voyageur Shoulder

Still Room for more.

Chief Black Hawk and Dr. Beaumont

Emma Big Bear and Victorian Lady

Aunt Marianne Labuche will be the next bronze sculpture. She was Prairie Du Chien's first Physician. She rescued and nursed her granddaughter, baby Louise Gagnier who had been scalped and left for dead. Photo is small replica.


Dedicated in 2013, the Mississippi River Sculpture Park Shelter will provide families and friends to gather, share a meal, and imagine the possibilities.

ICAN intergenerational group tours sculpture park*

A dozen local individuals with disabilities received a personalized tour of the Mississippi River Sculpture Park Aug. 7. The men and women from the Intergenerational Community Activity Network, aka the ICAN program, met Chief Blackhawk, Voyageur Julian Coryer, a Victorian Lady, Emma Big Bear, and Dr. William Beaumont and son Israel. They also learned about Aunt Marianne LaBuche (and baby Louisa), as well as the park board’s intention to install her as the next life-size bronze statue as soon as a finalizing $11,000 is collected in donations.

The morning visit started with an introduction by sculpture artist Florence Bird, who explained the purpose of the free, city-owned park: to bring to life the history of Prairie du Chien and how people of different cultures from all over the world came here on the river. She also discussed the process of creating a sculpture—from her research on the person to making the styrofoam maquette (model), enlarging it, adding clay, and eventually pouring hot bronze over it.

Bird, and park board members, shared the stories behind each of the park’s current five statues, as well as the sixth that is in progress. They also talked about the 12 bronze plaques that surround the park’s fire ring; each plaque symbolizes one of the contrastive cultures the people of the past who came here represented.

Then, the ICAN members walked around the 350-pound sculptures, taking note of the intricate details, asking more questions about their historical importance, and posing for pictures among them.

While experiencing a seasonable summer morning among the whispers of the island these figures once wandered, the ICAN visitors were blown away by the incredible roles these characters held in the community’s past.

They also enjoyed the augmented reality capabilities the park offers the public. Mississippi River Sculpture Park President Randy Paske showed them on his smartphone how, with the HP Reveal application, self-guiding park guests can point their mobile device camera at each of the statue’s descriptions, triggering a short video where the sculpture comes alive and personally tells his or her story.

The morning wrapped up as each person took home an Emma Big Bear-style tote bag, hand-quilted by Kathy Paske and filled with information and tokens for the newest “honorary members” of the park.

The ICAN program is for all ages to enjoy field trips, activities, arts and crafts, fitness and more regularly through Hoffman Hall in Prairie du Chien. For more information, call 326-2985.

To learn how to contribute toward the Mississippi River Sculpture Park and the Aunt Marianne LaBuche statue, visit statuepark.org.

By Correne Martin, Courier Press, Submitted by admin1 on Mon, 08/12/2019 - 11:46

Crown Jewel

There is simply no other park like this in the Midwest. Dare I write, in the US!
The Mississippi River Sculpture Park is  included in the wiki list of sculpture parks. This, in itself, is no small accomplishment.
The Mississippi River Sculpture Park is in the second oldest permanent settled community in Wisconsin. Prairie du Chien is located in the Driftless Area of south western Wisconsin, a few paddle strokes north of the confluence of the Mississippi River and Wisconsin Rivers. It’s open 365 days of the year, free of charge for all. There is no playground. It is a park with no swings, jungle gym, slide, or sand box. It is a city-owned park. It is on an island surrounded by the waters of the Mississippi River. This, alone should make it unique.
St Feriole Island Western sandy shore touches the East channel of the Mississippi River. Throughout the eons of time, many people have set foot on the sands and perhaps, walked inland in search of food or protection from the elements of nature. The Mississippi River Sculpture Park is dedicated to these visitors who may have stayed for a few days, or stayed for generations. 
The Mississippi River Sculpture Park has life sized bronze sculptures. Florence Bird, Sculptor, recalls: “Finding this deep ancient Mississippi valley and learning of the people who have inhabited this area and whose descendants are still calling this beautiful region home has been a great adventure.”
Today, there are five life-sized sculptures: Chief Black Hawk, Dr. William Beumont and son, Israel, a Victorian Lady, a voyager, and Emma Big Bear. Each one intricately sculpted. Again, Florence Bird: “It may not be understood that these are one-of-a-kind works of art made in the tradition of famous museum pieces and other public bronze monuments. They are each made especially for the Mississippi River Sculpture Park in Prairie du Chien, to illustrate the history and prehistory of this area. These statues are not mass produced decorative garden pieces. Each one requires its own separate production process starting with the inspiration of the artist. The whole process takes from 6 to 8 months for each statue. The techniques and tools are similar to ones used for bronze statues of all ages. Each bronze statue will last for thousands of years. “
The park will, someday be home to 22 additional sculptures. The next sculpture to be installed will be Marianne Labuche.  The Park Board is hopeful that with  a successful fund raising campaign, she will be dedicated within the next year.
Next time you and your family are anywhere close to Prairie du Chien, Come for a visit. The Mississippi River Sculpture Park, a jewel in the Midwest, will not be forgotten.

Next Bronze Statue–Aunt Mary Ann LaBuche*

(Donation Info)I first heard of Aunt Mary Ann LaBuche from a friend who suggested that she was significant in the history of Prairie du Chien and this region.
Her story is unique and different. As the first physician, before medical doctors arrived in the community, she contributed to many people's lives with her herbal and folk remedy healing.
The most dramatic was the rescue and healing of her granddaughter who, as a baby, was scalped and left for dead during what eastern newspapers called the Red Bird Massacre.
Her family was attacked by the native Red Bird and his cohorts who were seeking revenge for tribal deaths. This happened just south of Prairie du Chien, where Walmart now has a parking lot.
Mrs. Gagnier and her son escaped after her husband and a friend were killed, and her baby, Mary Louisa Gagnier, was scalped and left for dead.
Aunt Mary Ann took the baby, who was still alive, and applied a silver plate to the wound (silver is an antibiotic) and nursed her tenderly with herbs and loving care. The baby lived to be 67 years old and always wore a ribbon in her hair to cover her scar
.Aunt Mary Ann LaBuche, like many settlers in this area, was of mixed heritage, part French, part Sioux, and part African American.
While I was modeling the first image of her, which is shown on our website, I emphasized her African heritage by the features on her face. Recently, I met some of her descendants who have researched her life and showed me a photograph of Mary Louisa Charrier (the baby in the story), taken when she was an adult. I have remodeled the features of the Aunt Mary Ann LaBuche to reflect a more accurate family portrait. It makes me feel like I am participating in this amazing family history.
Artist, Florence Bird