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A 'Mountain Mammoth' named Mashaal: Public art structure starting to take shape at Detroit Mountain

Artists from the Twin Cities' Leonic Collective are hard at work this week, creating a new, interactive public art structure that will become part of the kids' playground at Detroit Mountain.

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"Mashaal the Mammoth," as Detroit Mountain's newest permanent resident will be known, is expected to take about two weeks to complete.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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DETROIT LAKES — Visitors to Detroit Mountain Recreation Area this past weekend may have noticed some construction happening near the kids' playground and Bunny Hill.

No, the 8x20x12 foot wooden structure isn't a new platform for doing aerial acrobatics in the snow: Eventually, the structure is going to take the shape of a woolly mammoth, with a "fur" coat made up of sticks gathered from the woods nearby.

This permanent piece of public art is designed to be interactive, according to Zach Schumack of the Leonic Collective, a group of artists from around the country who are responsible for creating the structure. Schumack and fellow Leonic artist Ian Molloy-Busse are also the duo who created the "Cave People" structures that were placed in the Detroit Lakes City Park late last month.

"We'll put a ladder inside that leg," Schumack said, pointing to one of the legs of the mammoth. "Kids can climb the ladder and be inside the belly of the beast, which will have a little playroom."

Both Schumack and Molloy-Busse were out working on the "Mountain Mammoth" on Friday, along with Leonic artists from Arkansas, Texas, British Columbia and North Carolina — and one local addition: Detroit Lakes Ice Palace creator Hans Gilsdorf, who was recruited to assist with the project.

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"I'm holding up the a-- of a mammoth!" Gilsdorf joked as he and Molloy-Busse worked to anchor a piece of the structure in place.

Gilsdorf said he was enjoying the process, and the opportunity to interact with his fellow artistic collaborators. "It's been an absolute joy," he said. "I'm learning a lot. These are very gracious, hardworking guys. Very creative and fun to be around."

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Artists Ian Molloy-Busse and Hans Gilsdorf work to anchor a piece of wood in place for the woolly mammoth public art piece that is being permanently installed at Detroit Mountain Recreation Area this month.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Though he would definitely classify himself as an artist now, Schumack said he actually got his start in construction. "I hated art classes as a kid," he admitted. "I'm a 3D artist, not a 2D one."

But it was through owning his own construction company that he got exposed to building large-scale art projects, and was hooked.

"This is construction to me, but in a cooler way," he said.

He got his start as an artist while working at the Somerset (Wis.) Music Festival, where he met another artist who would have a great deal of influence on his work: Tigre Mashaal-Lively , who unfortunately passed away back in October.

"I'm dedicating this sculpture to Tigre," Schumack said, adding that the mammoth would be called Mashaal in their honor.

Schumack said that Mashaal-Lively did some amazing sculptures, using nothing more than a pile of sticks. In that vein, the "fur" coat of Mashaal the Mammoth will be constructed of sticks gathered from the woods at Detroit Mountain. He and mammoth sponsor Project 412 put out a call this past weekend asking for help in gathering the sticks.

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Amy Stoller Stearns, the executive director of Project 412, said that her organization first learned about Schumack's "Cave People" sculptures needing a new home through a mutual friend of hers and Schumack's, Brook Herzog. After meeting with Schumack and getting to know him, she learned that constructing a full-scale woolly mammoth was one of his dream projects, and the rest is history.

"I think it's exciting and fun," she said of the sculpture. "It's a great new addition to Detroit Mountain."

The entire project is expected to take about two weeks to complete. Visit the Project 412 Facebook page for updates.

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at vgerdes@dlnewspapers.com.
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