This post is sponsored by Destination Medical Center
Our series, Heart of the City for Rochester Families continues as we share another piece of artwork with you. Much thought has been put into the art being installed in the Heart of the City, a project by Destination Medical Center. The artwork chosen are meant to engage viewers, create a new experience each, and also create pride in the shared community space in downtown Rochester. The next special artwork to near completion is “A Song for Water.” Read about the beautiful meaning this piece represents below.
As we’ve mentioned previously, public art is one of the core foundations for the Heart of the City. Public, community artwork allows residents and visitors to have both shared and individual experiences. We’ll continue to explore the spaces and familiarize you with these projects.
Please note: Finishing touches are still being added to the Heart of the City area including adjustment of pavers, sand, and final cleaning. Please watch for updates about a grand re-opening event and art dedication in the spring of 2022.
Ann Hamilton, A Song for Water (2021) with De Wakpa Taŋka Odowaŋ / Song for the Mississippi River (2018) by Dr. Gwen Westerman
Artists: Visual art by Ann Hamilton – Columbus, OH | poem by Dr. Gwen Westerman – Southern, MN
A Song for Water with De Wakpa Taŋka Odowaŋ / Song for the Mississippi River features fragmented words and phrases carved onto the pavers that make up the plaza grounds. Internationally acclaimed artist Ann Hamilton created the granite carvings using the words of poet and Dakota historian Dr. Gwen Westerman.
Dr. Westerman is a professor of English literature and English studies and technical communication at Minnesota State University – Mankato. Additionally, she is the first indigenous Minnesota state poet laureate. She was appointed to the role in September 2021 by Peggy Flanagan, Minnesota’s Lieutenant Governor. Her heritage lies with the Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota Oyate people and the Cherokee Nation.
Dr. Westerman has won two Minnesota Book Awards for her work about the Dakota people, “Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota.” Her first poetry book “Follow the Blackbirds” was written in English and Dakota. She is highly skilled with a long list of accomplishments, achievements, skills, and awards to her name.
The pavers start at the west side of the plaza at another piece of art, A Not So Private Sky, and lead you east toward Rochester’s beloved Peace Fountain. Spanning over 250 feet, A Song for Water with De Wakpa Taŋka Odowaŋ / Song for the Mississippi River is not only a work of art but an interactive experience. As you connect words and phrases with each step, you create a story of your own. Your children will love finding words, and the fragmentation of the phrases allow them to tell a new story each time your family visits the Heart of the City.
The language woven throughout the piece is from Westerman’s poem De Wakpa Taŋka Odowaŋ / Song for the Mississippi River. Her Dakota roots are recognized throughout her writing. Her words bring to mind a resemblance of time, awareness of geography and place, as well as consideration of where human culture began.
Each piece of artwork installed in the Heart of the City was intentionally selected by the Destination Medical Center team as well as expert consultants. A Song for Water was chosen to pay homage to the original inhabitants of the land that Rochester was established on. This reaches into history and speaks to our city’s present and future. The rich language of Westerman’s poem affirms that the plaza in the Heart of the City was first a Dakota place. The piece is intentionally designed to interact with the water and fog in the plaza. As the phrases connect like water, we are reminded that it is our first medicine and through it, we connect.
In our October 2021 Give Five post, we affirmed that Rochester is on the native land belonging to the Wahpeton tribe. The Wahpeton were a part of the alliance called Oceti Ŝakowiŋ — The Seven Council Fires. Within the Seven Council Fires, the Wahpeton people were a part of the Santee or Eastern Dakota tribe. (mnhs.org). Anishinaabe and other Indigenous people also live in this area (nativegov.org).
Bringing both visual and written art together, A Song for Water acknowledges the land’s native inhabitants and familiarizes our current residents with the value of the land’s rich history. We hope you are as excited as we are for this new interactive piece of artwork in the Heart of the City. Stay tuned as we continue to feature additional pieces and we hope you enjoy visiting them with your families.