'Cave People' sculptures, lighting displays at DL City Park aimed at getting people out to enjoy winter
Zug Zug, Zara and Baby Oog have arrived! Two life-size "cave people" sculptures, encased in fake ice, can be found at the Detroit Lakes City Park through Feb. 26.
DETROIT LAKES — The Detroit Lakes Police Department put out a Facebook post on Dec. 29, alerting the public that they had received "a call for service about a suspicious block of ice" in the Detroit Lakes City Park.
The tongue-in-cheek post was actually a clever promotion for a new public art display initiated by Project 412 , a Detroit Lakes-based nonprofit organization that was established late last year with the goal of helping the community to "become the best place to visit, live, work, start a business, start a family."
Project 412 served as the connector for bringing the "Cave People" art display to the city park this winter, in conjunction with an evening display of lighted trees surrounding the Pavilion. Two sculptures are included in the art display, depicting what appears to be prehistoric cave people encased in a block of ice.
Dubbed "Zug Zug," the original caveman display was the brainchild of Twin Cities artists Zach Schumack and Ian Molloy-Busse , who are part of the Leonic Art Collective . Zug Zug was originally commissioned about four years ago, Schumack said, for an ad agency marketing event.
"I had worked with Zach on some projects in the past," Molloy-Busse said. "Then one day, out of the blue, he calls me and says, 'I need a caveman in a block of ice.'"
And so Zug Zug was born. The life-size sculpture was really popular with the event attendees, Schumack said, but after the four-hour event was concluded, the sculpture sat in his garage for about a year, taking up space — and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. One evening, when Schumack and his friends were sitting around his home, talking about the sculpture and what he should do with it, they came up with the idea of making it into a fun outdoor display.
The idea, Schumack said, was for the sculpture to get people outdoors and exploring nature. "Nobody was going out or exploring or doing anything, and the news was very divisive," he said, "so I thought, I have this frozen caveman sitting in my garage ... let's do something fun."
Schumack, Molloy-Busse and their Leonic Collective worked together with the Minneapolis Park and Rec Board to hide Zug Zug in Theodore Wirth Park; the display proved so popular that when Schumack suggested to a local media outlet that he had had the idea of creating a female companion for Zug Zug, a search for the cave man's partner began — before there even was one to find!
"I went to my friend Ian again, and said, 'We have to build a new female sculpture as soon as possible,'" Schumack recalled, adding that Ian had created the second sculpture "on the fly."
Molloy-Busse said the sculptures "are based on mannequins, with added sculptures of clay and natural animal furs, bones and fiber." The cave people were encased in fake ice, which Schumack created using "cubes of Plexiglass, multiple layers of epoxy resin. and other techniques."
After Zara appeared in St. Paul's Crosby Farm Park, the two sculptures went viral again, with stories about them popping up all over local news and social media. "I think every news channel in the Twin Cities did something," Schumack said. "The goal was to get people to talk, to get people to go out and explore nature, and these pieces have certainly done that."
"Everybody was feeling trapped, and I think this was just a great thing for people to do outdoors, safely," Molloy-Busse added.
Schumack said his favorite part of the project was seeing little kids discover the cave people. "I was talking to a little kid, and he realized that it wasn't an actual, real caveman," Schumack said. "He was like, 'Wait, what? It's not real?' and you could see the look of a blown mind. I think that's what art is supposed to do. It's supposed to make you wonder, guess and talk about it."
Now, the sculptures have found a temporary winter home in Detroit Lakes, with Zug Zug displayed near the Pavilion, approximately where the sailboat sculpture used to sit, while Zara can be found on the other end of the park, near North Shore Drive. The park has also been lit up with strings of holiday lights, similar to previous Polar Fest displays created for the "MN Sn'Ice" ice palace and sculpture park.
"Miller Yard Care and Construction hung 21,750 feet of wire, and 7,300 bulbs to light the roof lines of the gazebo and about 15 trees between it and Washington Avenue. "That's over four miles of wire, and we're excited to be part of the project," says Josh Miller of Miller Yard Care and Construction, which worked with Malstrom Electric to create the display.
"Helping to add a bit of winter magic to the City Park is a fun way to give back to the community," said Garrett Malstrom of Malstrom Electric. The Detroit Lakes-based electrical contractor has donated their time to light up previous Polar Fest ice palace and snow/ice sculpture displays at the park for the past five years.
Project 412's role in the project has been to serve as a connector for the various people, businesses and other entities involved, explained Amy Stoller Stearns, the nonprofit's executive director.
“By connecting people, ideas, and resources, we can become a better, stronger, and more vibrant year-round community,” she said, adding "We live in the tundra, but it's beautiful here, and we need to get people outside to enjoy it."
Stearns noted that she first became involved as a result of a lunch discussion with her friend, Brook Herzog, who was also friends with Schumack — who happened to be looking for a new winter home for his sculptures.
"She (Brook) told me I needed to meet her friend Zach, so I called him, and the rest is history. I kind of like quirky, fun, interesting things, and cave people in the park in winter ... how cool is that? This was right up my alley," Stearns said, adding that she and Schumack both had similar ideas about how "art can bring people together and inspire them."
"He (Zach) is a great human being, and he's got really great ideas," Stearns said.
The sculptures and light display will soon be sharing space with the second annual "Polar-try Poetry Walk," set to open during Detroit Lakes' 2023 Polar Fest celebration, which runs Feb. 10-26.
The sculptures, lights and eventually, poetry displays will remain at the City Park through the end of Polar Fest. The Detroit Lakes City Park is located at 1361 Washington Ave., near the lake. Follow along with this and future Project 412 events at www.project412mn.org , or check out @project412mn on Facebook and Instagram .
To learn more about the people and businesses involved in the project, check out MalstromElectricInc.com , MillerYardCareandConstruction.com , and leonic.org .
A woolly mammoth at Detroit Mountain?
Stearns said that Schumack, Molloy-Busse and their Leonic Collective were going to be back in Detroit Lakes on Jan. 16, to begin work on a new sculpture project at Detroit Mountain Recreation Area. This project, however, will be a permanent structure that will be part of the mountain's natural playground.
"It's big — 8 feet wide by 20 feet long, and 12 feet tall," she said. "It will take about two weeks (to build), if the weather is good. But we're going to need a few volunteers to help with this."
Anyone who is interested in being a part of this project should contact Stearns by email at email@example.com .