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Hastings unveils first commissioned artwork

Willicey Tynes is pictured just to the right of his sculpture. (submitted photo)

Levee Park in downtown Hastings got its first piece of permanent, public artwork last week. On June 29, a sculpture commissioned by the Hastings Public Arts Task Force was revealed.

Titled “Nascent,” the sculpture was designed by Waite Park artist Willicey Tynes.

Located in a designated art plaza in the newly reconstructed Levee Park parking lot, the sculpture depicts several features unique to Hastings, including the Spiral Bridge, the dome of City Hall and a waterwheel and waterfall that once powered the local flour mill. Three birds are shown flying as well.

The sculpture came about through a call for artists by the Hastings Public Arts Task Force. 

“As a full time working artist, seeking proposals is what you do,” Tynes said in an email interview. “... I saw this as an opportunity to help a small community to establish and build their artistic presence.”

To come up with his sculpture, Tynes said he looked to the city’s history. 

“I could have presented something that was aesthetically pleasing, but with no true relevance to Hastings,” he said. “Instead I looked at things like the city’s old spiral bridge, the courthouse which is the second oldest in the state of Minnesota and its waterfall, just to mention a few. All of this was designed into the piece along with a tribute to the city’s new status as a bird watching destination.”

It was inspired, he said, but his wife and a 10-year-old buddy, Titus Carlson.

After his proposal was selected by the task force, Tynes set about making a large-scale model. When that was sculpted, he said, he built a mold into which cement would be poured. Once the cement was poured and set, the mold was opened and the work revealed and installed. The initial stages were completed at his studio, he said, but the cement was poured here in Hastings, at the site where the sculpture now stands.

Now fully installed, the sculpture is expected to remain in place for years.

“Time tends to show the longevity of the things we make,” Tynes said. “If there is no interference or disturbances this sculpture is expected to last for generations.”

The art plaza where the sculpture is located includes benches for viewing the artwork.

Tynes started his career in the Bahamas, where he was born and raised, he said. He is mostly self taught, and has lived in Minnesota the past 14 years, as his wife was born and raised here. In 2014, he received the MSAB artist initiative award; in 2015 he received the Bahamian Icon Award; and in 2016 he won the CMAB established artist award. His previous works include painting, sculpture and an underwater sculpture garden installed in the Bahamas. More about his work can be found online.

The Public Arts grant task force plans to host another call for public art to choose an additional permanent piece for installation in 2017. 

Earlier this year, one of the three available art spaces in Levee Park was given to a regional sculpture tour. That spot, located just north of the American Legion, now displays sculptures featured on the multi-city tour. 

Tyne’s sculpture occupies the second of three spaces. The third space designated for artwork is located at the top of the new pavilion amphitheater, in an area currently planted with flowers.

More about the city’s public art plans can be found on the city's website.