Coming alive: Nature Center exhibits being constructed; on track for Earth Day opening on April 22
Published 10:40 am Friday, March 10, 2017
And there it is, you think, as you walk through the doors of the new $7 million Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.
“It” is a wow factor that stops you in your tracks.
While it is clear the new interpretive center is still under construction, you can easily see its promise being fulfilled, from the colorful and arresting murals that frame many of the walls, to the vaulting — and we mean, big — cottonwood tree that you can literally walk into.
Email newsletter signup
Everywhere there are surprises to be found in the 15,000 square-foot expanse: chickadee replicas that suddenly appear along the side of the tree; a darkened forest through which a vibrant moon appears; a bison calf that nestles in the prairie diorama.
A sculpture of Jay C. Hormel, planting a spruce tree, greets visitors at the door.
Workers from Split Rock Studios from Arden Hills, Minnesota, dart in and out of areas as they work to construct different exhibits in the 11-12 areas of the center; while they are at work, construction workers continue their jobs as well.
It is a busy place.
Director Luke Reese, fresh from a training on how to run different lighting and heating/cooling systems in the center, walks through the work on Thursday, pointing out locations and how things will appear.
“We still have work to be done, but we’re on track” for their April 22 opening, which coincides with Earth Day.
The building itself is impressive enough — but what has started to come into it matches that feeling.
“I really love the murals,” said Reese. “They make the whole building come alive.”
There will be a mesh of existing exhibits and the new designs as the opportunities come up, said Reese.
Some of the new is breathtaking.
Artists from Split Rock have been working on the large murals that wrap around the diorama; in one case, a mural from the current center was dismantled and incorporated, seamlessly, into a new, larger, mural, thanks to the artist’s talents. The nature scenes are lively and bright. And, you cannot see where the older painting ends and the new begins.
“We have wonderful artists,” agreed John Daugs, a builder with Split Rock. “We have incredible talent in our shop.”
And, that talent throws a wide net. Their studio includes a wood shop, art department, design and graphic departments — “We are full service,” he said.
The company has been designing and working on the exhibits for several months. On Monday, some of the exhibit portions began to be installed and they will continue the installation through March 17.
“If we were to bring it all at one time, we would have two semi-loads,” Daugs said. “But if we did that, we wouldn’t have any room to put things together — so we do some at a time and then bring in more.”
Daugs said the company works primarily in museums and visitor centers all over the world. Two recent ones included exhibits for sites in Juneau, Alaska, and in Kuwait.
Having a job this close to home “is really nice,” he said.
It would have been nice no matter the distance, though, he said.
“When I saw this building, I got really excited,” Daugs said. “The beautiful things about this job is that everything is different. It’s a great space.”