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Student artist’s artwork will become public sculpture

Aerial view of Kuhlman stadium with water tower in foreground.

Across the district, hundreds of elementary student participants entered the “Better Together” student sculpture competition, hosted by the Edina Arts and Culture Commission and the Edina Community Foundation. This competition involved students creating 3-D models of a sculpture, known as a “maquette,” to represent what “Better Together” means to them. Shannon Steven, the art teacher at Cornelia Elementary, helped develop the project through a grant and worked throughout the district with other teachers to present lessons on public art and the theme to their students. 

Of the 600 participants, there were over 80 semi-finalists, followed by eight finalists. Submissions were evaluated by 11 judges made up of art teachers, Foundation representatives, Commissioners and students. Concord fifth grader Alex Wyatt’s piece, “School of Fish,” was selected as the winner of the competition and the Milligan Studio, featuring artists Alan and Nicole Milligan, will build the sculpture. It is expected to be installed this fall in Centennial Lakes Park.

Susan Tarnowski, the Edina Art Center general manager, said Alex developed the concept for his sculpture with the idea that people are better together when they work together. “The artist we selected to develop the public art sculpture really took this concept to another level. He noted that fish that shoaled, or stay together for social reasons, rather than fish that school, or just swim in the same direction, are healthier,” she said. “ In other words, diverse fish are healthy fish.”

For Steven, this project helps teach students about how public art plays a crucial role in shaping culturally vibrant and sustainable communities. “Offering students real world experiences is very important to me and the other art staff in Edina Public Schools,” she said. “I created this project to let student artists know that their ideas are worthwhile and valuable and can impact the community where they live.”