Community shares ideas for public art in Superior
Christina Kintop: "I think it’s really important to use our voice to let people know in this community that we do deserve nice things. We can fix potholes and have nice things.”
SUPERIOR — Artists and residents of Superior had the opportunity to share their thoughts on public art with members of the culture, events and public arts commission Wednesday, April 19.
Over two sessions on Wednesday, community members had the chance to answer two questions:
- What does public art mean to you?
- What would you like to see for public art in Superior?
“What are your ideas?” said Rebecca Scherf, the mayor’s chief of staff and the staff member who works with the commission created by the council. “What are your ideas? What do you think we’re missing? Are we hitting the mark? Are we not hitting the mark?
"So that’s what we’re looking for today," Scherf said. "For us as a commission, and what we do and are looking to do, to see what the community wants and needs so we can incorporate that as we move forward.”
The commission is relatively new, created in 2022 after the city council allocated $350,000 to support funding public art in Superior. It evolved out of the mayor’s festival committee, which was developed in 2017 to promote events and remove barriers by offsetting the cost of city fees required to hold them.
“This isn’t a decision that should be left to a handful of members sitting on this commission,” said Carolyn Nelson-Kavajecz, chairperson. “This conversation and idea-sharing and decision-making should be opened up to the citizens of the city of Superior because when you’re taking into consideration public art forms, this is something that will be accessible to everyone in our community.”
The commission’s goal is to make sure that public art isn’t exclusive or only available to people who can afford a ticket, Nelson-Kavajecz said. Public art should benefit the community and be accessible to the whole community, she said.
Participants were asked to share their thoughts and ideas on Post-It notes, and encouraged to talk about their ideas if they felt comfortable doing so.
“I think public art in a small town represents who you are as a people and what you want to tell people about yourself,” said Teddie Meronek, an author, historian and retired Superior librarian. “In Superior, we can’t be Ashland. We can’t be Duluth. We have to be ourselves. I think that we should be proud of who we are. We are a blue collar town. We should be proud of that and our public art should, in some way, represent that.”
Lee Sandok-Baker, Superior’s code compliance officer and a self-described art enthusiast, agreed that public art should capture the character of the community, but it has to be accessible and visible to all.
“I don’t have a creative bone in my body,” said Christina Kintop, a local chiropractor. “I’m the biggest Pinterest-fail ever … but I do enjoy art.”
Kintop said after a recent 10-day trip to Europe, she noticed that communities that invest in public art are culturally diverse; make the community more interesting; beautify the community; and give the community an identity.
While visiting Ennis, Ireland, a community a little smaller than Superior, she said she ended up spending an unplanned morning there taking in the sculptures.
“We just kept taking another street and another street,” Kintop said. “Oh, and there’s one over there … it drew us there to find these things.”
Cathy Casper, a lifelong Superior resident whose family owns Keyport Liquor and Lounge, said one of the things she enjoys is the Lake Superior Ice Festival on Barker’s Island and watching the kids interact with the ice sculptures to take pictures with them.
Casper said it’s an exciting time to be in Superior, but one of the big challenges the city has is maintaining what it has.
“We have the first Carnegie library in Wisconsin on Hammond Avenue … And that building has sat there for how many years," she said. "How many years has it been empty?”
The building is a legacy that should be honored and people will come, Casper said.
“Superior has always struggled with an identity issue,” Kintop said. “We’re a community that never thinks we’re good enough or that we can have pretty things. I think it’s really important to use our voice to let people know in this community that we do deserve nice things. We can fix potholes and have nice things.”
Nelson-Kavajecz said Kintop hit the nail on the head because not deserving nice things is a theme she’s heard over and over again.
In addition to beautifying the city, Nelson-Kavajecz said public art can be beneficial to tourism like those who visit Ashland to see the murals there. She said $350,000 isn’t going to make an enormous impact on the community, but it is enough, if spent correctly, to bring recognition to the city and additional money that could add to Superior’s public art investments.
Among the ideas people shared for possible projects were sculptures, murals, parklets, an outdoor venue for concerts and performances, projected art depicting the city’s history, educational opportunities and restoring the arch that once stood at the intersection of Broadway Street and Tower Avenue.
The footings are there, Meronek said, and it would be a great tribute to Mayor Bruce Hagen to restore the arches after he ensured the footings were placed during the Tower Avenue reconstruction project.
Possible venues for public art — murals or projected art on grain elevators, the outdoor classroom in the Superior Municipal Forest, the space in the center of the roundabout at the foot of the Bong Bridge — also emerged from the discussions.
The commission is still looking for more ideas and plans to post a survey on the city’s website, ci.superior.wi.us, when it's available.