MANKATO, Minn. — The $250,000 needed to paint massive murals on the Ardent Mills silos in the Old Town section of Mankato is in hand and the Australian artist doing the work will be back this summer to get more information to finalize his design.
Jonathan Kemp, plant manger of Ardent Mills, said they are thrilled to have their silos used as a canvas.
“The mill opened in 1878 and this community has really allowed us to flourish over the years,” Kemp said.
Started as Hubbard Milling, Ardent Mills makes a wide variety of flours, including organic-certified flour.
Artist Guido van Helten was in town for a weekend last fall while working on murals in Iowa and South Dakota. He took in a powwow, met with others and took photographs of people to start developing a composite of the people he will paint on the silos, said Noelle Lawton, executive director of Twin Rivers Council for the Arts, which is heading the project.
“All eight silos are available, front, back and side,” she said. How much of all the silos are used will depend on his final design. Lawton noted that on some of his past silo projects two or three silos were used for the painting of one person.
Lawton said the artist and his team do extensive work on the history and culture of communities they will work in to help guide the design.
For the artist, who’s done projects around the world, this will be one of his largest. And unlike other projects, the Ardent Mills silos are still in use.
Lawton said they are studying the best places people will be able to safely observe the installation this fall. She said barricades will be placed near the silos to keep people safely back. They are also looking at live streaming the installation and people are interested in using drones to capture the event.
Nancy Zallek, CEO and president of the Mankato Area Foundation, which helped lead the fundraising, said support was broad with individuals, the city and businesses donating.
Audra Shaneman, director of the City Center Partnership, said the big display will draw a lot of people to the city. “Who puts art on a silo? It’s going to be awesome. Anything that brings people to downtown Mankato is helpful.”
The silos, at 122 feet, tower over all else in the area and the artwork will be visible from several directions, including U.S. Highways 169 and 14 across the Minnesota River.