Cities located along the Great Lakes have a tradition of installing outdoor sculpture in public places to commemorate important events or memorialize individuals who have had an impact on the community.

Both abstract and figural in nature, and often large-scale, the monuments grace parkland and town square alike. They often attain an iconic visual distinction and come to represent, to the world, a specific urban area.

Examples include Detroit’s “Monument to Joe Louis” aka “The Fist” by Robert Graham in Hart Plaza or Anish Kapoor’s reflective “Cloud Gate” (The Bean) in Chicago’s Millennium Park.

The Great Lakes provide a backdrop for sculpture located in smaller cities as well. “Spirit of the Rivers,” by R. T. “Skip” Wallen is situated beside Mariners Trail on the lake road connecting Manitowoc and Two Rivers, Wisconsin.

Zachary Oxman’s “Fantastical Traveler” depicts Waukegan-born American author Ray Bradbury astride a rocket ship. The statue is installed on the entrance plaza of Waukegan Public Library near the Lake Michigan shore in Northeastern Illinois.

The artwork by Wallen and Oxman are featured in Celebrate Libraries® videos which developed from projects spotlighting public libraries in Two Rivers and Waukegan.

Thanks to Lester Public Library Director Jeff Dawson in Two Rivers for sharing his knowledge of the origins of the “Spirit of the Rivers” project.

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