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‘A permanent home’

Sterner sculpture showcased at University’s Arboretum

Photo by Jim Muchlinski John Sterner draws, paints and creates sculpture in addition to teaching art in the Lakeview School District. One of his sculptures is featured in the grasses area of the University of Minnesota’s Landscape Arboretum.

A sculpture by John Sterner has a permanent home at the University of Minnesota’s Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen.

The Arboretum accepted his sculpture titled “Kiciuzapi” for outdoor display in the ornamental grasses garden area. It was donated by owners Carl and Nancy Cambrone of Golden Valley.

Kiciuzapi features a couple in a skating style pose, with the man holding the woman in the air. Sterner came up with the concept after meeting with the Cambrones at their home to talk about doing a sculpture for their yard.

“I could tell they truly love each other,” Sterner said. “They smiled at each other and held hands. I wanted to give them something that could symbolize what they’ve felt.”

Sterner became acquainted with the Cambrones through Mike and Mary Jacobs of Marshall. He and Mike worked together as Marshall area art teachers. Mary and Nancy Cambrone are sisters.

He finished the sculpture in 2008. After more than a decade of display at the Cambrone home, Carl and Nancy decided their sculpture belonged somewhere that would enable many people to see it and appreciate it.

“They wanted to give it a permanent home,” Sterner said. “The Arboretum was one of the best possible places. They asked about making the donation, and the Arboretum was interested.”

The sculpture stands 9 feet tall and has length and width dimensions of 5 feet and 4 feet. It was one of five concepts for which Sterner created miniature prototypes. He gave the Cambrones their choice before doing the full-size version.

Kiciuzapi was dedicated at the Arboretum on Sunday at a ceremony attended by about 60 people. Sterner also has a gallery exhibit of his paintings at the Arboretum’s art gallery, which will be on display until December and which drew a different audience of more than 50 attendees.

Sterner has several other sculptures on permanent public display. He completed the Mrs. Whitney sculpture for Marshall’s Liberty Park area in 2013. He finished the giant Mustang displayed at Southwest Minnesota State University in 2016.

“It’s a real honor anytime an artist has work displayed in a place of prominence,” Sterner said. “It’s very humbling. I’m humbled by how my work will outlive me, and that many years from now people will look at it and get a sense of what motivated me to create.”

He produces art on a daily basis, and teaches art to students in the Lakeview School District in Cottonwood. He said art is a continuous process of discovery, of trying to make an idea come to life on paper, on canvas or in the shape of metal.

“I emphasize to my students that I make mistakes as an artist,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll start something and it doesn’t turn out the way I envisioned. The important thing is to keep trying. The effort someone puts into art is a big factor in the amount of success.”

University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum art coordinator Wendy DePaolis asid Sterner’s work lends itself to the goal of having a landscape headquarters with gardens that are peaceful and thought provoking.

“There are many great connections to nature in his work,” DePaolis said. “Visitors will enjoy the sculpture in all four seasons. It blends well with the grasses in the summer and has oak trees as a background in the winter months. It’s a great new addition.”

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