May 26, 2007

Beginning of the Road

By Dane Sorensen


I am sure many of you will agree that we could use a little more global warming this May. We had many more no-coat days last year. We also had more rain. So far, the only thing warm this May have been the trees burning in the forests. At least these fires have not come close to my beloved Trezona Trail. I can't tell you how I have missed biking daily to burn up those surplus calories I have picked up over winter. It is true I can always stare at my basement wall while riding my stationary bike, but after a while it wears thin on your brain. There is nothing like the ever-changing view of outdoors.

In spring it is always fun to ride the trail and see where Mother Nature first pokes out new life after a long Ely winter. Hearing the returning birds chirping in the budding trees is music to my ears. I have never been tempted to buy an iPod. The sound of the outdoors is music to my ears. Furthermore, I like to hear what people may say to me when I pass them by.

I also like to hear the pigeons flutter about as I come up the hill by the Pioneer Mine powerhouse. This spring whoever owns the powerhouse has decided to have a permanent 24 hour open house. It is not often that the public is given an opportunity to tour some of the old Pioneer Mine buildings. Perhaps it is due to the restoration work on the chimney that whoever owns the mine now has decided to open it up? Anyway, the steel door with the words "Ely Snowmobile Club" on it is always wide open now. So I stopped my exercise routine to see Ely's second newest public exhibit.

The interior is not very well lighted, but thanks to the pane less windows in most of the building you can make out this interesting new exhibit. In the main room you can see the years of dove droppings on the floor. In some areas it is over 6 inches thick. Along some of the walls are the old lockers from the mining days. They have done a very good job of leaving them un-restored. After enjoying this nihilist exhibit of 20th Century industrialism, I went into the adjacent gallery. By now I figured this was not the work of the Ely Snowmobile club. I was curious who might be responsible for this interesting modern exhibit.

[Please note: the section in italics was not published. Between the time I saw the mess in the Power House and publication the new owners of Starkman Oil had become aware of the mess. They cleaned up all the abandoned paperwork, which I thought was very thoughtful of them.]

The theme of this next gallery consist of more pigeon droppings and thousands of Starkman Oil statements on the floor. It was then that I finally got it - no doubt the NLAA is behind the opening of this new art museum. Considering the high price of gasoline and fuel oil what better gesture of defiance than a floor filled with pigeon poop and fuel oil bills. It was also nice of Starkman Oil to donate copies of so many customer statements. I recognized a lot of the names on the statements. I liked the touch of keeping live pigeons in the room. It kept the exhibit dynamic and made you realize this energy crisis is nowhere finished. I think the goal of the energy lords is to make us pay high prices as they do in Europe.

Finally, in the basement there is an exhibit about the relationship of pigeon poop and the City of Ely. Two very expensive looking portable fire pumps have been donated by the Ely Fire Department to be showered with pigeon poop in this dank and dark room. The artistic message was as multi layered as the poop. Was the artist trying to express his disdain of government waste? After all, our city has an excellent history of overspending. Can we forget how our new sewage plant project wasted almost three-quarters of a million dollars by the constant redesigning? Or the thousands of dollars we had to spend when the city used leaded paint on the water tower years after it was illegal for its citizens to use leaded paint? And I am sure the artist was well aware of the current financial disaster in the ongoing garage project. The juxtaposition of something so valuable as fire equipment to pigeon poop was very expressive.

I honestly think this new art exhibit will be very popular this summer - all the more reason for people to visit our historic town. Now some cynics will say that this really is not an art exhibit. They will claim it is just an example of government mismanagement of public assets. It could be true the Ely Fire Department does not need these pumps anymore and they could be sold on ebay for thousands of dollars, but I can't imagine our current city government could be so careless. I am sure all our newly elected rulers have visited every asset in our town to make sure they know what is going on. No, I think it is an art exhibit that would make the Walker Art Center green with envy. We really should invite those liberal art critics from Minnesota Public Radio to do a report about our new art exhibit. It is too bad the artist is too modest to sign his art - I don't have a clue who has created this interesting exhibit.

I know when I told a neighbor about this new exhibit, he said I was just as full of poop as the powerhouse. He said the city should really lease the Pioneer mine buildings to an organization like the Ely Historical Society and let them move their museum there. He felt the historical society might be able to raise funds needed to stabilize and clean up those buildings. He said so much more could be done when you use volunteers. I told my neighbor I thought he was wrong. I felt that whoever owns those buildings must have a plan and this new public art exhibit was just the start of Ely's revitalized growth. No doubt this exhibit will be more popular than the new bear center. I urge everyone to check out this avant guard art show. My thanks to the unknown artist for his timely work. MOMA would be proud of Ely.




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