Looking over Voayager 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.

Display showcases 25 potential statues intended for Mississippi River Sculpture Park

By Correne Martin

Courier Press, Mon, 08/28/2017 - 11:28

sculpture park displayImagine 25 life-sized, historical figures from Prairie du Chien’s past enshrined in bronze statue form, placed carefully in a spacious park setting along the scenic Mississippi River. Doesn’t that sound enchanting? The Mississippi River Sculpture Park, as it sits in Prairie du Chien today, is the beginning of that exact vision. Currently, there are five statues in the free, self-guided park, at Villa Louis Road and Bolvin Streets.

But, to get the full effect of what the sculpture park could be someday, local residents and visitors of all ages and interests are invited to check out a new display that showcases the 20 additional statues planned for the setting in the future. A display cabinet—located in the small, limestone, “Eagles on the River” building as you first access Water Street on the island—presents the 25 total sculptures, as miniature, acrylic replicas, that may, one fine day, be arranged altogether in the park.

“It even includes the fire circle that’s there,” shared Melody Igou, Mississippi River Sculpture Park board member. “The display gives people an idea of what this park can really be.”

Igou said the board realizes each of these sculptures is quite expensive, and recently, the members have done research into how they can bring the cost down significantly. Doing so could make the finished park to fruition much sooner too.

In the meantime, Igou would really like the public to make a special trip to the Eagles building to view the exhibit. Seeing all 25 of these select figures, who helped shaped the area, together, may truly drive home the essence of the grand potential this one-of-a-kind sculpture park has. She and the board hope this display will provide further inspiration to people to visit the park, walk among the statues, learn their stories and possibly consider donating toward the coming sculpture.

At present, the figures in the park include Black Hawk, Dr. William Beaumont, Victorian Lady, Voyageur and Emma Big Bear.

The next bronze sculpture, Aunt Marianne LaBuche, was Prairie du Chien’s first physician. She rescued and nursed her granddaughter, baby Louise Gagnier, who had been scalped and left for dead. As of mid-July, $28,000 was yet needed to complete the LaBuche statue.

The following 19 intended representations are to include British Redcoat, Chief Shin Ga Wassin, Winneshiek, Chief Waapasha Anishinabeg, Father Jacques Marquette, Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, Jefferson Davis, Judith and Nina Dousman, John Lawler, Louis Joliet, Mastadon Hunter, Riverboat Captain, Mississippian, Mound Builder, Nicholas Perrot, Minnie Owens, Zachary Taylor and Zebulon Montgomery Pike.

For more information about the history of each figure, sculptor Florence Bird or to buy an inscribed paving brick or donate, visit statuepark.org.

Clay Mold - Aunt Marianne Labuche - Goes to the Foundry

Sculptor's Corner, July 2017: 
Florence Bird, sculptor.
The life sized clay sculpture of Aunt Marianne LaBuche has been taken to the bronze foundry in Milwaukee.
labuche Mold 2The photo left, shows the sculpture torso which has been covered with the  silicon rubber mold material. The bumps embedded in the mold are there  to register with the plaster backing which will be applied in sections to keep the mold firm. When this is done and all sections are complete they will be removed from the clay model and the sections will be ready for receiving  the sculpture wax.
The sculpture wax will be melted and poured into the mold sections to be  about 3/4 inches thick. These wax pieces will then be attached to sprues  (wax sticks) and mounted on a board. Then the wax section assembly will  be turned upside down and dipped into a ceramic slurry and dried several  times. When the ceramic slurry is dry with the wax inside, this will be put  into a kiln where the wax will melt out and leave the mold ready to receive the bronze. 
While the ceramic mold is in the kiln the bronze will be melting in a crucible  to about 2100 degrees Fahrenheit. When the mold is ready, still hot, and the wax is gone it  will be taken out and put upside down in a bed of sand ready to have the  molten bronze poured into the space where the wax had been. This  process will be followed for each section of the original mold. 
Then when all of the pieces have been cast they will be cleaned and welded together using the same type of bronze for welding rod.  unnamed (1)
When the whole sculpture is welded together it will be cleaned and the  patina (color) will be applied. The color is done with different chemicals  sprayed on to the bronze when the finished sculpture is warm and a final wax finish is applied to help preserve the color. 
The whole process takes months to complete and each sculpture is one-of-a-kind.
Following is the cost estimate (the actual cost may be a bit  different) for this part of making the sculpture: 
* Wax casting and finishing ———— —— $5,300.00 
* Spruing through bronze casting— ——— 10,300.00 
* Welding and metal finishing— — — — — 10,100.00 
* Patina ————————————— —— 1,300.00
                   Total foundry work— — — —- _$27,000
Shipping and insurance ——————— — —700.00 
bronze name plate —————————— —-600.00 
   Total shipping, ins. and name plate———   $1,300
Total needed to complete ———— — —$28,300.00

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

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.