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Welding students at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College of Superior weld branches onto a metal tree in the classroom. The finished Wishing Tree sculpture will be placed at 1104 Tower Ave. on Feb. 11. Members of the community are encouraged to hang their wishes, dreams and hopes on the public art. Submitted photo

A sculpture featuring curved metal branches and dangling wishes will dare passers-by to dream.

The Wishing Tree, created by welding students at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College of Superior, will be installed where the Palace Theater used to stand, in the lot beside Sclavi’s Restaurant.

Members of the public are encouraged to become part of the project by hanging their wishes, hopes and dreams on the metal artwork before it disappears.

"Wishing Tree projects have brought communities together across the globe," said Alison Price, Phantom Galleries director. "A tree, actual or sculptural, is slowly covered with strips of fabric or tags with the community’s wishes tied the branches. Surprisingly, many of the wishes are not for a new electronic device, or vacation, but rather are heartfelt and altruistic. People wish for healing, a job, friendship and hope."

For months, a baker’s dozen of welding students have shaped metal into a tree that towers more than 10 feet tall.

"It’s been a lot of work but it’s been fun," said welding instructor Aleasha Hladilek.

She intertwined learning and art, expanding student skills beyond traditional classwork.

"It was a big relief, I think, for them to do something that wasn’t quite as technical," Hladilek said. "Something that’s not a straight line because we do, obviously, a lot of straight lines."

One week, the class’ technical blueprint was replaced with branch work. Students heated and bent metal rods into branches with the use of an oxy-acetylene torch. Another week, they created roots. They twined round stock around the open trunk section, turning hundreds of pounds of metal into a tree.

"Bringing it into this class there was a lot more laughter than there usually is," Hladilek said.

Students will transport and erect their finished tree, which breaks into three pieces, Feb. 11 at 1104 Tower Ave. A special opening ceremony runs 6:30-7:30 p.m. Feb. 12.

The public art, which will be lit at night, will remain in place for about two months, Price said, catching dreams.

"The community of Superior has been very receptive to community participation art events," Price said. More than 600 painters, ranging in age from 6 months to 85, left their mark on the north exterior wall of 1322 Banks Ave. during the "Our Superior Community Mural" project in spring 2013.

"People came from far and near to be part of the project," Price said. "We hope that a similar response is felt with the upcoming Wishing Tree."

The project, designed by Hladilek and her class, is sponsored by the Superior Business Improvement District, the Wisconsin Arts Board, Phantom Galleries Superior and the National Endowment of the Arts.

Arts surface in Superior

Art is in the air this month, despite the chill. The Superior Public Library will host its annual "Love Your Local Artist" event from 5:30-8 p.m. Feb. 12. Festivities and fireworks will surround Roger Hanson’s ice sculpture on Barker’s Island from Feb. 20-27 during the Lake Superior Ice Festival. Free activities include making s’mores, cocoa with a K9, visiting ice princesses, a local arts and crafts fair and more.

Community members are asked to contribute to the Orb365 public art installation by creating ice orbs. The orbs will be installed at Barker’s Island at the close of ice festival activities Feb. 27.

Superior’s art community is coming out from underground, said Karen Goeschko, assistant director of the Wisconsin Arts Board.

"Things are reaching a boiling point," she said. "Really a critical, wonderful time. A lot of creativity is here."

She and Wisconsin Arts Board Executive Director George Tzougros traveled to Superior for their annual visit last week.

"What we see is that there’s more and more activity and there’s more desire to bring that activity together," Tzougros said. "These are all the really cool things that are happening, but how do we bring it together and make people aware of it?"

Art and live music are featured at places like Thirsty Pagan and Red Mug; the Wishing Tree project is part of Phantom Galleries Without Walls; Twin Ports Stage has brought live radio performances, stage shows and a new business to town; Douglas County Historical Society’s History Theatre continues to showcases local stories.

"All of these things add to a vibrant life in the community," Tzougros said. "Luring people across the bridge this direction; you have things to do that."

One of the key components lacking, members of the art community told him, is a central clearinghouse for information on art events. A one-stop shopping site to find out what’s happening instead of looking up events in a dozen different places.

Art can be a powerful tool for understanding and an economic driver.

"The bottom line thing for the arts is what they do for us as human beings," Tzougros said. "Because ultimately, when all of that is said and done, the reason the arts are so powerful is it’s us expressing ourselves, again through what we make and the stories that we tell."

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