Artists bring Dylan's music to manhole covers destined for Duluthby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Artist-designed manhole covers have already been installed in places like Japan, Seattle and Vail, Colorado. Duluth is next.
A group of artists that has held "iron pour" art events for the past nine years decided this year to create two artist-designed, Bob Dylan-inspired manhole covers to be placed on Bob Dylan Way (parts of Michigan Street, Superior Street and London Road) in Duluth.
The iron pour events create a different form of art out of melted iron each year. This year, the artists group that sponsors the event -- Common Language -- decided to apply for a grant to create the public art project focused on Bob Dylan, who was born Robert Zimmerman in 1941 in Duluth.
The artists received the grant money and decided manhole covers would be a great place for art, said Jeffrey Kalstrom, one of the organizers.
"Cast iron is a perfect medium for public art. It's inexpensive; people have much less of a tendency to steal it," he said. "And manhole covers are already cast iron."
Laurel Sanders, one of the two artists whose design was chosen for a manhole cover, said she's a huge Dylan fan. Her design comes from Dylan's song "Subterranean Homesick Blues."
"This was pretty easy because they lyric in the song says, 'jump down a manhole,'" Sanders, a Duluth artist, told MPR's All Things Considered. "We had that image to start with."
The design includes boots that appear to be going into a manhole and the arm of a person wearing a work shirt holding a candle, which illustrates another part of the song. Off to the side there's part of a guitar.
The other manhole cover, designed by Shoreview artist Marc Zapchenk, includes two guitars drawn like a yin and yang symbol. The manhole cover reads "Bob Dylan Way, Duluth Minnesota."
Kalstrom said the manhole covers will be installed on Bob Dylan Way on Dylan's 70th birthday on May 24.
The artists also hope to create more manhole covers, which is a complicated process. While the group had created cast iron artwork many times before, Kalstrom said casting manhole covers was a challenge.
"It was a lot of work," he said, noting that Sanders' manhole cover weighed 180 pounds. "That's way over what we usually do."
But Kalstrom said the group will likely make more manhole covers. And Sanders said she hopes to participate in the next iron pour.
"I thought it was an interesting opportunity," she said. "I'm a huge fan of public art in general -- art that's accessible to anyone and everyone."
(MPR's Tom Crann contributed to this report.)
- All Things Considered, 09/14/2010, 5:54 p.m.