MARSHALL - The sudden loss of local artist Jim Dahl earlier this summer was not only tragic, but it also left behind questions about Dahl's last work.
Local arts supporters faced a difficult task in deciding the fate of the Mrs. Whitney statue Dahl was sculpting for downtown Marshall. How could they continue the project while still honoring Dahl's efforts?
Dahl, a multitalented artist whose work can be seen all around Marshall, had been commissioned to create the statue of Mary Whitney, an early Marshall settler who was instrumental in naming the city. Dahl died Aug. 18, after suffering a brain aneurysm.
"We wanted to be true to Jim's vision," Jim Swartz, leader of the statue project committee, said Friday. Having another artist finish Dahl's sculpture wouldn't be appropriate. Instead, the Marshall Area Fine Arts Council announced Friday it is commissioning John Sterner to create the Mrs. Whitney statue.
Sterner is an area resident and artist whose work is well known in southwest Minnesota.
"John is a talented artist who had been working with Jim as a mentor and a colleague," Swartz said.
Sterner had also been involved with the statue project, said Becky Wyffels of MAFAC.
"John is certainly very familiar with the vision and intent of the project," Wyffels said. Choosing Sterner to create the statue "made a natural way to continue on with that, and to have a local artist."
"I can't think of a better solution to keep Jim's vision alive," Swartz said.
While Sterner will be building a completely separate statue from Dahl's, the timeline to complete it will stay the same, Swartz said. "We hope to have it finished in time for Sounds of Summer in 2013," he said.
The statue, which will stand near the intersection of 3rd Street and College Drive in Marshall, is planned to serve as a welcome to the downtown area.
Supporters of the Mrs. Whitney project are still discussing what to do with Dahl's unfinished statue, Wyffels said. Nothing has been decided yet.
Committee members also want to make sure Dahl's vision and contributions are acknowledged in the finished statue project.