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.

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.


Several people told me they went again to the Fun-Raising Follies because they knew the show would provide a lot of amusement and besides, there are so many talented people in Prairie du Chien who don't get any other chance to display their talents.  Because of camaraderie, every performer in this year's Follies told directress Cindy Hertrampf that they'd want to perform in next year's Follies too.

Something wasn't announced during this year's performances:  all of the money raised at the Follies, minus expenses, would be donated to the latest historical statue planned for the Mississippi River Sculpture Park (MRSP). About 17% of the cost of the next statue was raised at this year's Follies, but the Sculpture Park board still doesn't have enough money to install the next lifesized bronze statue on St. Feriole Island.

At the Follies, I was a volunteer at a table where people could help pay for the statue of Marianne Labuche, a 19th century healer here.  Ticket holders did buy chances for prize baskets or the 50/50 drawing, but paid no attention to donating specifically to the MRSP.  They could have joined Friends of the Sculpture Park and get interesting rewards, bought a stone message on a paver that would be installed near the next statue, or purchased a DVD of this season's show. 

Anyone who'd like to do one of these three things now should Google "Mississippi River Sculpture Park" and click on the website to see how to donate and bring more history to our city.

--Marilyn Leys

Prairie du Chien

Follies 2017

by Corene Martin, Courier Press

Caution: Exposure to the Fun Raising Follies in Prairie du Chien may cause sudden outbursts of joy, happiness and uncontrollable laughter.
The Mississippi River Sculpture Park is a non-profit organization whose goal is to preserve area heritage and history of Prairie du Chien, Marquette and McGregor. Every year, in January, the sculpture park committee hosts the Fun Raising Follies, a community variety show featuring all local talent.
This year, the Follies will take place Jan. 6-7, in the Prairie du Chien High School Little Theater. Performances are Friday, Jan. 6, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Jan. 7, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. General admission tickets may be purchased in advance at Zinkle’s Piggly Wiggly and True Value or at the door. There’s usually a full house, so people are encouraged to buy tickets early. At each show, there will also be 50/50 raffles, basket raffles, bottled water sales and photo opportunities and autograph opportunities with the local participating celebrities.
“It’s always a let down after Christmas, so this is a good time to come out and laugh,” said Cindy Hertrampf, one of the event’s organizers. “The acts we have are all different. The music, comedy and the acts are all taken from the Ed Sullivan Show, around 1948-71, so they’re all recognizable.”
New this year, the committee is offering businesses and families the chance to sponsor an act and be part of the Follies. For a tax-free donation of $100, at a minimum, businesses and families will be advertised between acts. In exchange, each sponsor will receive four tickets to any of the shows.
“We thought this would be a good way for us to not only earn more money, but also advertise the businesses that support us,” Hertrampf explained. “Signs for our sponsors will come across the stage at all three shows and, at the end, we’ll have a thank you in the paper acknowledging them as well.”
This year promises to be the most exciting ever. Consider attending and meeting the folks who so generously share their time and talents to entertain the community during the cold winter months.
“Cousin Cletus will be back again this year and so Tom Nelson will be too. It wouldn’t be a show without him,” Hertrampf chuckled.
Funds raised at the Follies will be used to create and install the next sculpture at the Mississippi River Sculpture Park, Marianne LaBuche, a remarkable woman who was Wisconsin’s first healer. There are many descendants of Marianne LaBuche. Maybe your family name has some ties. Visit www.statuepark.org to learn more. Also on the website, visitors can find videos, photos from previous performances and information about the sculpture park.
The sculpture park committee is still on the lower end of its fundraising for the LaBuche statue, but Hertrampf said they hope to make a big push and get the statue completed and installed in the park within the next two years.
For more information, call Hertrampf at 326-4326.