District 728 seeks arts to design entryway and plaza to Handke’s outdoor classroom

District 728 Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) has issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) from local artists to design a unique and inviting entryway and plaza to their outdoor Nature Explore Classroom overlooking Handke Stadium in Elk River.

The public art commission is open to all professional artists, artisans, architects, landscape architects, or a team thereof, capable of designing the public art piece and also arranging for fabrication and installation.

In 2008, the ECFE Advisory Council and the ECFE Program decided to pursue creating an Outdoor Explore Nature Classroom. Their vision was to provide a destination-quality outdoor classroom that connects young children with nature in an historic, safe and natural setting where all community members are welcome and invited to participate.

Over the last few years, the Nature Explore Classroom committee has raised funds and installed a red oak performance stage and tables, a logged-in messy materials area, a wooden climbing structure and a marimba. What is missing? The main entrance.

“Right now you cannot easily identify the Nature Classroom and where the main entrance is located. By designing a plaza and entrance area, it will be clear to the community where the Nature Classroom is located and welcome families within its gates,” said Julia Nielsen, assistant manager.

A successful public art project proposal will include the following:

•Accessible, attractive plaza.

•Beautiful and enticing entry feature.

•Creative, informative signage to invite all to enter and interact with nature may also be included.

•Elements that pique the imagination, entice people to enter, and promote an ongoing interest.

•Design that is inviting and accessible for users of all abilities.

•Features that encourage the public, especially children, to interact with nature while using or enjoying the artwork.

•Scale, theme and materials appropriate for use by young children in a public school setting.

•Maintenance that is easy and economical.

•Design and function that are safe and durable for the long term (40–50 years) and can be used year-round.

•Unifying design, themes and features that contribute to the integrity of the area — that is, are consistent with the historic building.

Interested artists should submit a letter of interest, a professional artist’s resume and 10 relevant public art or work samples by Feb. 15 to Early Childhood Family Education. Finalists will be notified in March and will be issued a $1,000 stipend to design their public art feature. The budget for the public art commission will be up to $20,000. Installation time line will be determined with the finalist and ECFE.

For complete details and video clip of the area to be designed, visit the Early Childhood website at www.728communityed.com and click on Call for Artists.