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Launch of new public art highlights transition in Peace Plaza

Rochester artist says 'Wakefield' seeks to inspire contemplation

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Patrick Seeb, director of the Destination Medical Center, speaks during an event to introduce "Wakefield," a public art installation at Peace Plaza as part of the Heart of the City project, on Monday, May 16, 2022, in downtown Rochester.
Tucker Allen Covey / Post Bullet
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ROCHESTER — Eric Anderson’s “Wakefield” launched in Peace Plaza Monday amid reflections on what the public art installation and surrounding area means for residents and visitors.

The Rochester artist’s work emits fog and light when triggered by a birth or death in one of Mayo Clinic’s Rochester hospitals.

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“The intention of the artwork isn’t to highlight or celebrate individual, finite moments, beginnings and endings,” Anderson said during a celebration of the artwork connected to a scrim pool on the east side of the plaza. “I think the idea is to consider the whole of life.”

Patrick Seeb, executive director of the Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency, agreed “Wakefield” is about more than what triggers the fog.

“It is the representation of breath, the beginning and end and the time in between,” he said.

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“Some people will experience it for just the gentle cool breeze, the mist that comes with it,” he added. “Other people will use it as a time to reflect on their own life, and somebody once said to me ‘It’s actually the time in between the mist that I find most profound, because that’s where we are today, the in-between, the mist.’”

Holly Masek, executive director of Rochester Downtown Alliance, said she sees the art, as well as the surrounding plaza, as a similar in-between space, or bridge, for community members and patients at the nearby Mayo Clinic.

“I have sometimes heard criticism that all the work we are doing is for the patents, not for the people of Rochester,” she said. “I want to briefly remind everyone that this space is actually the exact transition and gateway from our community and Mayo Clinic.

“It’s the point where we come together, where we mingle, and now that the patients aren’t wearing (day of the week) tags, we don’t know who is who.”

Rochester Mayor Kim Norton said she’s already seen people engaging in the renovated plaza, which includes water flowing into the extremely shallow pool connected to Peace Fountain.

“This space has been activated, particularly by children, on the weekends,” she said. “It’s going to create new memories, not the old memories, but new memories moving ahead for children, families and visitors as they walk in the water, as they experience the water.”

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Mayor Kim Norton speaks during an event to introduce "Wakefield," a public art installation at Peace Plaza as part of the Heart of the City project, on Monday, May 16, 2022, in downtown Rochester.
Tucker Allen Covey / Post Bullet

“Wakefield” joins Peace Fountain and two other public art pieces — the “A Not So Private Sky” sculpture by Chicago artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle and the “Song for Water” pavers designed by Columbus, Ohio, artist Ann Hamilton — in the plaza. A fifth art installation, “Voice Canopy,” by Montréal artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, is expected to be installed later this year as an additional light element.

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The nearly complete first phase of Peace Plaza and First Avenue Southwest renovations is being celebrated during a special event from 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, with a presentation planned for the first 30 minutes.

At 2 p.m., several activities are planned to showcase the new space. They include:

  • Art activities led by Rochester Art Center.
  • Activities with Rochester Public Library staff.
  • Improvisational and interactive spoken word activities led by local poet Danny Solis and other local artists.
  • Family friendly music performances by John Sievers and other musicians.
  • Mindfulness walks and yoga experiences with Maria Serbus from Grounded Evolution and Radiant SoL Yoga Studio.
  • A sustainability walk with the project’s design team to highlight innovations incorporated into the project.
  • A celebration of women in construction.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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