The installation of four, very large, very heavy granite stones on a concrete slab is the first step in a public art project taking place at the intersection of 42nd Street and Ninth Avenue South.

Zoran Mojsilov, a sculptor and Serbian immigrant who lives in Minneapolis, was commissioned by the Public Arts Commission to create the sculpture, which “will be close to 30 feet tall.

The artwork, “Northern Rose,” is made with elongated granite stones from a quarry operated by the Coldspring Company of Cold Spring, Minnesota.

“The four stones are like a rose closed," Mojsilov said.

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In the center is a column of steel rebar, which will be covered and concealed with cement. The stones will be linked using stainless steel rods.

In a couple of weeks, Mojsilov plans to return to the site to oversee the addition of three to four truckloads of smaller pieces of stone to the sculpture; the smaller stones will represent rose petals, he said.

Culmination of effort

The Public Arts Commission pitched the idea to the city in May 2019 to place the artwork in the corner of a parking lot the city leases to the Canad Inn.

The city has invested $50,000 to prepare the site and build a foundation for the sculpture. The park district will be in charge of landscaping the area. The remaining cost of the sculpture was contributed by an anonymous donor, said Laurel Reuter, director of the North Dakota Museum of Art, who has helped to bring the project to fruition.

A dedication ceremony is expected to take place Sept. 2, said Barry Wilfahrt, PAC chairman and president and CEO of The Chamber Grand Forks - East Grand Forks.

The large-scale sculpture, reminiscent of the state flower, the prairie rose, is designed to represent the frontier spirit and the strength and courage of the people who settled in the area in the late 1800s, according to the PAC website.

The prairie rose “first pleased the Native inhabitants, then the immigrants who arrived later,” the website reads. “Still with us today, (the flower’s) delicate beauty belies its strength.”

Noted sculptor

Artwork by Mojsilov, a noted sculptor whose career has taken him from Serbia, the former Yugoslavia, to Paris and to the United States, has been exhibited in 25 states across the country.

Some of his works are on display in the sculpture gardens at the North Dakota Museum of Art on the UND campus and in Mayville, N.D. Joann Ewens, who died in 2016, sponsored one of his artworks for the Rainbow Garden at Mayville.

Mojsilov, who had a major exhibition two years ago at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, is well known for his sculptural work in wood, stone and steel, said Laurel Reuter, director of the North Dakota Museum of Art.

Reuter is the reason this public artwork is being installed on 42nd Street, Mojsilov said.

“She is ‘the queen of art’ in this area," he said.

Reuter has known Mojsilov for decades, she said, noting that she invited him to show his artwork, which she calls abstract, at the North Dakota Museum of Art in 1990.

Creative process

The sculpture has been in the creative process for about two years, Mojsilov said.

“It is going to be the biggest of my sculptures so far -- and definitely the tallest rock formation in this part of North Dakota, because everything is flat,” he added with a chuckle. “This is the first time I’ve seen these stones standing up. They are new to me equally as to you.

“I worked on them laying down,” he said. “I worked in the quarry with them. I was imagining how they were going to look when they stand up.”

He smoothed the surfaces of the stones, he said.

“I used the torch to burn the edges so they look like they’re worn down," he said.

The contradiction between the subject and the material -- the fragility and delicacy of a rose and the hard strength of granite -- is part of his vision for the sculpture, according to Mojsilov, who said people will look at the artwork from their own perspective, but its position in a public environment will mean that many will see and react to it. He hopes it will spark comment and curiosity.

The public art projects that PAC supports aim to enhance the aesthetics and the beauty and quality of life in Grand Forks, and thus making Grand Forks a more inviting place to live and visit, Wilfahrt said.

Art displayed in a gallery is different from public art, according to Madelyn Camrud, a Grand Forks artist and member of PAC’s artist selection committee.

“It’s the exposure. It’s something the public can touch," she said.

Other members of the artist selection committee are Ann Brown, Mike Kunz, Bruce Gjovig and Reuter.

The installation of this artwork, taking shape on a busy roadway in Grand Forks, has been delayed several times, Camrud said.

“It was supposed to go up last fall. Then winter came and went, and then we’re into March and April and COVID happened; now it’s the middle of June, but it’s a good time to put it up," she said.

As Camrud stood by the first stones that were installed, “I felt the power of the earth. I could feel what the first settlers here felt,” she said.

“Isn’t that what the settlers felt when they stood and looked at the land, and the wind blowing? It’s the simplicity and yet the vastness of the human spirit that has gotten us here.”