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.

Shelter

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

Prairie du Chien’s 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 (https://en.wikipedia.org/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.

Faces of Distinction

It is the common wonder of all men, how among so many million faces, there should be none alike. Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682) English author.
As I stroll around The Mississippi River Sculpture Park, I am instantly drawn to the face of each life-sized bronze sculpture: the quaint smile of “The Victorian Lady”,  the loving smile of Dr William Beaumont as he looks over the shoulder of his son, Israel, the indomitable smile of Chief Blackhawk, or the contemplative smile of Julian Coryer (Photo left).  Each face, reveals the character of the person and signs of their time. As sculptor, Florence Bird says, “Through my art I come to know these people.  Bronze will last for seven times seven generations.  Our descendants into the unimaginable future will know about us by visiting these bronze figures.”
Visitors to the park  gently stroke  parts of the face hoping to gain some wisdom of the past.  The burnished parts leaves a tactile sculptural memory for each visitor. Each sculpture’s distinctive face reveals the life and times of the person who has come to the Driftless area of the Prairie du Chien area throughout the centuries. 
The sixth bronze sculpture will be Marianne Labuche.  Mariann Labuche, was the first person to heal the sick in Wisconsin(1). Her patients called her "Aunt Marianne". Labuche came up the Mississippi River about 1790. She married three times and was the mother of fourteen children. She filled a crucial need in the Wiscosnin frontier with her knowledge of herbs, midwifery, and Native American and folk medicine.
There is no other park like this in the Midwest.  Each bronze is unique and one of a kind. The Mississippi River Sculpture Park is in the second oldest city 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.
“Each individual historical figure is important individually as well as being a part of the whole story. Just as the portrait of Aunt Marianne Labuche and her grandbaby tell about their personalities and relationship to one another, their addition to the Sculpture Park will help to define the whole story of Prairie du Chien,” says Florence Bird.
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.

Footprints in the Sand

The inspiration for the Mississippi River Sculpture Park came with footprints in the sand by the river on St. Feriole Island at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin  I wondered “Who stood here before me?”  Then I began to learn about some of the people who had come to this island from ages past, people who had used these rivers as travelways, and people of the present who still live by the rivers. 
I conceived of a place where the the people’s stories might come together,  where a Mastodon Hunter might share his story with the traveling Victorian Lady, and Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli could share his experiences with Fr. Jacques Marquette.  What would Black Hawk say about the Mound Builder to the Dousman Children?  People from12,000 years of history could come together around a fire circle to tell their stories and share their experiences and beliefs with one another.  This is the story of Prairie du Chien and this confluence region where the peaceful Wisconsin River joins the great Mississippi River, a story of living history.  I imagined this sculpture park as a gathering of people from the pages of history and prehistory as an author might imagine an historical novel, historically authentic with enough artistic license to bring vitality to these diverse lives.  The present day community of Prairie du Chien reflects this story in it’s diversity.  This story is about our roots and our nation’s roots, and significant for the understanding of world history.
Because I am a sculptor, as I learned about these people who came from all corners of the world, I began to make clay models of them.  And now, as the community  supports the work, we are able to enlarge the figures to life size and have them cast in bronze for a permanent monument so that many many generations of visitors may see and touch our story.
This is a unique story and a unique sculpture park.  There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world.
Florence Bird, master sculptor