Archived Story

A million little pieces: Volunteers play crucial part in community project

Published 12:01pm Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The process of funding and creating mosaic panels as part of a Battle Lake beautification plan has been a lot like mosaics themselves: lots of smaller pieces coming together to form a cohesive whole.

After more than a year since planning first began, work is almost complete on mosaic panels that will go on the backs of benches set to line Battle Lake streets next year. The project has reached this point thanks in no small part to the work of community members, according to Reba Gilliand, who has been instrumental in the project.

“It’s quite an undertaking and if we hadn’t had so many people volunteering and donating their time and energy … we could not have done this,” Gilliand said.

An art advisory committee, of which Gilliand was a member, first met in October 2012 to discuss potential art projects for downtown Battle Lake. While they waited to find out if they were to get funding for a project, the committee decided mosaic bench panels, planters and artistic bike racks would be worthwhile projects.

Eventually, Lake Region Arts Council awarded the city a $10,000 legacy grant for public art. Work on the mosaic panels began in mid-July and has continued every week since, Gilliand said.

Battle Lake artist Annette Hochstein was written into the grant to lead the mosaic project and came on board early in the planning stages.

She has been largely responsible for the creative direction and helped decide the three themes of the panels: natural habitat, recreation and agriculture.

“They take a long time to complete,” Hochstein said. “It is a bit-by-bit process.”

Hochstein has led all but two of the meetings since the project began. Groups meet three times a week at a rented Battle Lake home where they work on the project. Gilliand estimated about 125 people have volunteered on the project so far.

“We’ve had people from Fargo, we’ve had people from the Twin Cities,” Gilliand said. “Somebody saw it in the paper in Fergus and drove over one day and said she wanted to work.”

Coleen Behm and Keith Fleischauer are two frequent volunteers at these meetings.

Fleischauer said he has been coming for a few months and Behm said she and her husband Tom usually go to two sessions a week.

Hochstein works with newcomers at the beginning of each session, walking them through mosaic terminology and techniques. Behm, who had no previous experience before volunteering, said she is still getting comfortable with the style.

Both find the work relaxing and a nice way to spend a few hours every week. Fleischauer believes the panels will be a beautiful addition to the city streets when the benches are put in place.

“I think it will be a real attraction on the downtown streets,” he said. “It’s quite a project and a lot of people have worked on it.”

Nine panels have been completed so far, with three panels left to go, Hochstein said.

She hopes all the panels will be finished within the next month. The three benches, two planters and four bike racks are set to be installed next spring, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony set for May 24.

Just as with creating a mosaic, the project has been slow going.

But those involved feel the final result will be more than worth the wait.

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