Under shady trees and on the sidelines of public baseball fields, Minnesotan artists have turned rusty steel containers into an art encounter.

Three local artists recently had their work reproduced to decorate several storage boxes in Miller and Homeward Hills parks in Eden Prairie, thanks to grants to the city from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Eden Prairie Community Foundation.

“In addition to beautifying − some of these storage boxes are eyesores − it’s really promoting public art and having people encounter art in a surprising place,” said Lori Brink, city manager of recreational services. “It’s also the value of infusing art into the everyday lives of Eden Prairie residents and visitors.”

Artists Cathy Durso, Kevin McLaughlin and Keren Kroul, all of Minneapolis, were selected by a committee of Parks and Recreation and Planning Department representatives and with citizen input from the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Commission. The artists received stipends for their work from the grant.

McLaughlin creates digital art for the most part and was glad to share his art with the public.

“It’s a great canvas and it’s there. Why not engage artists in this way?” he said. “There’s so much talent right here in our communities.”

Durso, who works mainly in watercolors and natural dyes, was interested in the opportunity for exposure and also emphasized the importance of paying artists for their creations.

“It takes up most of my time,” she said of her art. “I think that artists deserve to have their time respected, and being paid is a type of respect.”

The NEA grant for $10,000, which the city received in 2018, also funded a series of temporary sculptures in public Eden Prairie spaces, including Purgatory Creek Park, Brink said. The Eden Prairie Community Foundation provided $1,800 toward the public art project in 2019.

Since 2018, eight storage and utility boxes have been wrapped in weather-proof prints of artwork, she said.

Aside from beautifying otherwise ordinary objects, the storage box art project meets several of the City Council’s goals, like building a sense of community and creating a beautiful environment, which are part of the Council’s Aspire Eden Prairie 2040 plan, recreation supervisor Jes Schrom wrote in an email to Eden Prairie News.

“Public art enhances the environment surrounding it and creates a special sense of place,” Schrom wrote. “Eden Prairie is already known for beautiful natural resources and outstanding parks, trails and public facilities. This project seeks to further establish Eden Prairie as a community that values creativity and artistic expression in the daily lives of its residents.”

As for the artists, another canvas to create is always appreciated. Durso is already on the lookout for more ways to share her art with the public, she said.

“I’m definitely looking for more public art opportunities and how to translate my work into those opportunities,” Durso said.

Eden Teller is the multimedia reporter for Eden Prairie News. She's passionate about fostering productive conversations and empowering communities. When she's not reporting, she can be found reading a book, on a hike or tackling home improvement projects.

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