Prehistoric festival: metal dinosaur sculptures arrive at Eau Claire | Cover page
CLEAR WATER – They’ve been extinct for 66 million years, but dinosaurs have temporarily returned to their Clearwater playground.
Fourteen metallic sculptures of dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures, affectionately known as “the Scraposaurs”, arrived at Artisan Forge Studios in Eau Claire at the end of April. They will be here for at least six months – a traveling exhibit that Greg Johnson, owner of Artisan Forge, has dubbed “Parc Eau-Rassic”.
Each dino also has a name: an 11 foot tall Tyrannosaurus Rex is “T-Rex Evolved.” An 800-pound, 18-foot-long Stegosaurus is called Stanley. A bird-like feathered dinosaur is called Jitters – a reference to its wide-eyed expression, creator Dale Lewis said.
A mother and muskox calf and an armored dinosaur named Scrappy Ed also stand on the studio lawn.
“It attracts kids and parents alike, although there have been loads of adults here to check them out too,” Johnson said Tuesday. “They are unique and different and seem a little dangerous. It’s something more relevant than a lot of our abstract art.
The dinosaur exhibit – in front of Artisan Forge, 1106 Mondovi Rd. – is free and open to the public, Johnson said.
“It’s a public exhibition. We want people to come forward and get involved, ”he said. “Take pictures in front, go into the building.” There are 42 artists working here in the building. “
Describing himself as a “passionate recycler,” Lewis creates his sculptures using almost entirely recycled and scrap materials.
Dinosaurs are not his only passion. Ranging from a coiled metal dragon named Bing to a giant mouse named Ratatouille, Lewis’s sculptures are on display throughout the Midwest, including Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas and Iowa.
Lewis is no stranger to Eau Claire either.
Several of his pieces have appeared in Sculpture Tours at Eau Claire. His sculpture ‘Trojan Horse’, a towering black equine statue made from salvaged computer panels, won the Tour’s Audience Award in 2015.
The very first sculpture presented by Artisan Forge Studios was one of the pieces of Lewis, a metal spider that stopped at Eau Claire around 2014, Johnson recalls: “Now the circle is closed seven years later.”
The creation of the scrap metal sculptures began as a small retirement hobby after Lewis quit his career as an electrical technician and machinist. Now, Lewis says, art is his “full-time obsession.”
“I’m constantly running subject possibilities in my head,” he says.
The dinosaur exhibit is the first time the 14 prehistoric creatures have been exhibited together; most recently 11 were at home in Lewis’s yard.
Almost all of the materials used by Lewis are recycled or scrapped. Most dinosaurs took him two to three months to complete, he said.
“They all take enough time for it to be a bit of a party when I finish one,” he said.
Johnson said he was delighted to welcome the Scraposaurs from the May kickoff of Eau Claire Creative Economy Month. The project is blessed by Visit Eau Claire and the nonprofit Sculpture Tour Eau Claire, he said.
“I thought I would like to do something big for the community that would be fun, and also help improve the presence of the entire sculpture tour at Eau Claire,” Johnson said.
The dinosaur exhibit will be in Eau Claire for at least six months, possibly for a year. Dinosaurs can roam the city and beyond, Johnson said, hinting at a scavenger hunt that would challenge the public to find the location of the 14 creatures.
But ever since the dinos landed outside Artisan Forge Studios, they’ve garnered a lot of attention.
“It’s almost ridiculous how many people come here and take pictures,” Johnson said.
He hopes the public will spend a lot of time with the Scraposaurs: “The dinosaurs are going to party with us this summer.”