Reporting Bill Hudson
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This Wednesday marks the five-year anniversary of the 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis. Now, a park that stored the ugly side of the tragedy has been transformed into a display of beauty.
It has the feel of a western Minnesota wheat field, with its amber grains gently blowing in the breeze.
Only there, directly across the river from the University of Minnesota’s Weisman Art Center, is a wheat crop growing for both food and fun.
The installation artist, Tom Henry, said “it gives back to the community, too.”
Last year, the photographer turned artist, gave us “Sunflowers of Summer.” The live sunflower art display was planted in cooperation with the MSP International Airport.
Once again the public is reaping aesthetic benefits from what he calls, “Amber Waves.”
Henry’s creation has three parallel 850 foot long strips of wheat planted in a grassy field of Bohemian Flats.
“It mimics the form of the river as it flows through Minneapolis all the way to the Ford Bridge and beyond to Fort Snelling,” Henry said.
The Minneapolis parks advocacy group, “People for Parks,” partnered with Tom as a way to bring more visitors to this under-utilized park. It is an area known more for being the metal scrapyard for the 35W debris, than a scenic place to recreate.
“Normally, it’s we want trees or we want swing sets or whatever, so this was an unusual one to have an art installation,” said People for Parks’ Felicity Britton.
Henry envisioned taller stalks of wheat as part of his creation, but was hampered by hungry geese, poor soil and hot, dry weather.
“My struggles are nothing compared to what happened up river five years ago,” said Henry.
It has more than just visual impact. It will soon come the dividends of food when the harvested wheat is milled to help feed the hungry. Area bakers have volunteered their ovens to transform the flour into loaves of bread for area food shelves.
“The beauty of this will be in the loaves of bread,” Henry added.
Henry said the wheat is quickly ripening and will be harvested in a couple of weeks.
While you can see it from West River Road, the Washington Avenue pedestrian bridge gives you the best vantage point.