Alexandria artist's work included in Upper Midwest land art show

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A bison created from recycled plastic takes shape at the Lakes Area Precious Plastics Lab in Fergus Falls. Alexandria area resident Erik Peterson is collaborating on the project with two other artists.

An Alexandria man who is a relative newcomer to art has helped create a bison sculpture from recycled plastic that will be included in an outdoors art project in Fergus Falls timed to celebrate the city's 150th birthday this summer.

Artist Erik Peterson said he grew up near Long Prairie and spent 20 years in avionics maintenance for the U.S. Air Force before settling near Holmes City. Now retired, he has turned to art and design — woodworking, metalwork, 3D printing, electronics, and now plastics.

The bison is one of three plastic installations in “Future Fossils,” the Fergus Falls project that is participating in the Upper Midwest initiative 4Ground: Midwest Land Art Biennial. The installations were all made at the Lakes Area Precious Plastics Lab in Fergus Falls, where anyone can transform ordinary plastic items into useful products or art.

Peterson attended an open house at the lab and has been working with the Otter Tail and Pope-Douglas recycling centers since then. His was a winner in their holiday ornament contest, and has run ornament workshops and school field trips.

The Precious Plastics Lab and Springboard for the Arts organized the Fergus Falls project. It is one of multiple communities in four states taking part in 4Ground, which seeks to call attention to important land and water issues affecting the region, such as the overuse of plastics. In Fergus Falls, the three installations will be placed along the Fergus Falls Riverwalk between Court and Cascade streets from Friday, June 24 to Thursday, Sept. 1.


"I was thrilled to be invited to be part of the 4ground Future Fossils project, and I'm having a lot of fun learning how to convert my technical skills into artistic works," Peterson said. "I have a passion for environmentalism and conservationism, and love how the Precious Plastics systems bring recycling and sustainability focus/awareness to the greater community," he said.

An opening reception, precious plastics demonstration, and artist “walk and talk” is planned for 4-8 p.m. Thursday, July 14 at Springboard for the Arts in downtown Fergus Falls. The walk leaves at 5 p.m.

Reporter Karen Tolkkinen grew up in Plymouth, Minnesota, graduated from the University of Minnesota with a journalism degree in 1994. Driven by curiosity and a desire to learn about the United States, Karen Tolkkinen has covered local news from Idaho to New Hampshire to Alabama and landing at the Echo Press in Alexandria in 2017.
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