New sculpture is giving visitors another destination stop in Austin

Published 5:45 pm Friday, June 7, 2024

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A new opportunity for pictures in Austin is helping spread the word about what the community has to offer.

Earlier this spring, a 3-D sculpture of the outline of Minnesota, was installed along Fourth Avenue NE just north of the Jail and Justice Center. Measuring eight feet tall and seven feet wide, the sculpture is an opportunity for all, both traveling and locally.

“We were just looking for another fun way to promote Austin and this is a great way to have the community be cheerleaders for us as well as have visitors sharing on their social media platforms,” said Discover Austin Executive Director Nancy Schnable.

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The sculpture was funded through grants that Discover Austin applied for last year and got the funding this year that allowed them to create the sculpture and have it installed with the help from Mower County alongside Fourth Avenue.

However, it’s a different strategy for something that was originally more of a mobile idea.

“The initial plan is that it would be portable and we would move it to different shows and events,” Schnable said. “As we got to talking, having a more permanent site seemed like a great plan. Then we didn’t need all the extra curricular stuff and manpower to be able to move it.”

The sculpture was installed during Discover Austin’s Tourism Week in May, which is also National Tourism Month.

In hopes of bringing attention to the sculpture, Discover Austin held a promotional event.

“We had a contest where people would take a picture with it and submit it to us on social media and we got flooded with all sorts of images,” Schnable said. “People came from all over different states and take pictures and submit it to us.”

“It’s had a lot of photos taken with it,” she added.

Overall, Schnable said tourism is gradually making a return back to where it had been before the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Explore Minnesota’s 2022 Leisure and Hospitality Industry data, Mower County saw gross sales of $65.5 million in 2022 with a state sales tax impact of $4.3 million.

“We’re on the rebound. Things are looking up,” Schnable said. “There’s still a lot of work to go to get back to where we were pre pandemic, but we’re getting there. Visitors are starting to come in, conferences are starting to come in. We just keep plugging away and welcome all of the visitors.”