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Through donated works: Artist highlighting history

Southern Minnesota sculptor Ross Pollard recently donated two small bronze plaques to the city of Fairmont. The first plaque, which honors community builder William H. Budd, is installed on a boulder in Pierce Park overlooking Budd Lake. The second plaque remembers the locust plagues that devastated Martin County in the 1870s and is installed on a boulder in Cedar Park. Both plaques are part of an initiative to highlight various historical figures, places and events in southern Minnesota.

A pair of historical bronze medallions went on permanent display in Fairmont this week, thanks to the generosity and talent of a Blue Earth man.

Ross Pollard created a tribute to William H. Budd, one of Fairmont’s original settlers, and fastened the plaque to a boulder at Steve Pierce Park on Albion Avenue, across the street from the site of the former elementary school that bore Budd’s name.

The second medallion, located at Cedar Creek Park, features a grasshopper, recognizing the locust plagues that decimated the area in the 1870s.

Both medallions are mounted on boulders donated by Landscaping Plus of Fairmont. City staff coordinated the project after Pollard contacted them with his offer to donate the memorials.

Pollard owns Blue Earth Pastels with his father, James. The business makes high-end art materials that are sold in the United States, England and Australia.

“In the evenings, I like to do art. It’s a hobby. I didn’t go to school for it. I taught myself how to sculpt,” Pollard said.

The 37-year-old artists favors bas-relief sculpture, which is only slightly raised from the surface.

“I’ve been interested in art most of my life, but it’s always been a puzzle trying to figure out how to get my art out into the world in a way that has impact and meaning. For most people who have tried, selling art is almost impossible,” he said.

“I’m also interested in history. I wanted to combine those two interests in some way that would benefit local communities. I feel like there is so much often overlooked history in this part of the state. I wanted to do something, and donating my art seemed to make the most sense. I felt that it would be helpful for communities to remember certain individuals who accomplished great things or to remember important events of the past.”

His first historical medallion is displayed at Foundation Park in Blue Earth. It bears the likeness of Blue Earth native Donald Deskey, an industrial designer credited with the design of Radio City Music Hall and the lampposts in New York City, as well as the logos for Crest toothpaste, Jif peanut butter and Tide detergent.

“The one of William Budd and the locust plaque in Fairmont were my next two, and I’ve got a long list of ones that are going to be going in various locations next month,” Pollard said. “The one I’m currently working on is for Herman Heights Park in New Ulm.”

He has one planned for Odin and one featuring Walter Mondale that will be displayed in his home town of Elmore. Blue Earth will received additional medallions commemorating the Faribault County Fair and World War II.

Pollard has been working on these sculptures over the last year. It takes about a month to do the original sculpture in clay. Then he makes a plaster of paris mold from the original clay design and another plaster cast from the plaster mold.

“That’s my master pattern,” he said. “I send that or a rubber mold of that to a foundry up north. They do the bronze casting from that and send it back. Then I put the patina on the bronze and do the installation.”

The entire process takes a couple of months.

“I have to plan quite far in advance. That’s been frustrating for me,” Pollard said.

Each creation costs upwards of $100, which is the reason he keeps the plaques small.

“If I would have done them too big, I wouldn’t be able to afford it,” he said. “I do them small to make them easy to install and to keep my costs down. I gift them because it just keeps things simple.”

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