Sleeping Giant: the Iron Range of Minnesota

Watermark Art Center is pleased to welcome back photographer Vance Gellert, the artist behind our 2006 exhibit Real: Artists and Landscapes. This February, Gellert will exhibit his travelling show Sleeping Giant at Watermark. The exhibit will run February 5 – March 26. There will be an opening reception February 5, from 5-7 p.m., with an artist talk at 6 p.m.

The phrasesleeping giant’ is the English translation of the Ojibwe word ‘mesabi,’ the title Native Americans gave the Laurentian divide that eventually brought to the surface great deposits of iron, now known as Minnesota’s Iron Range. The first ore mined from ‘the range’ was shipped east to steel mills in 1892. The mining boom attracted over 40 nationalities seeking escape from tough economic conditions. In the 1920s, there were as many nationalities represented on the range as in New York City.

Such diversity provides a rich tapestry that is conveyed through the portraits and cultural landscapes of Sleeping Giant. There’s the food, music, dance, ceremonies, and beliefs from cultures including Welsh, Italian, Croatian, Native American and more. Portraits range from high tech mining engineers in their 20s to a newspaper editor and musicians in their 90s.

But the Iron Range isn’t what it used to be. The days of rich ore are now gone. The eclectic community that gathered to live its sweat, blood, tears, and joys is being tested. Mining continues, but it’s much different. There is evolving opportunities in the arts, tourism, paper, support industries, and high tech centers.

Sleeping Giant is a photographic journey of the landscape, sociology, culture, economy, and evolution of this intriguing area as one would see it today. It’s a grand, sprawling story that detail a uniquely beautiful landscape and a proud, resilient people.

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