Dylan sculpted music, now hometowns etch him in history

This is my Sunday column for the May 19, 2013 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. I’ll be revealing more about Tom Page’s Dylan sculpture project in a week or so.

Dylan sculpted music, now hometowns etch him in history
By Aaron J. Brown

The figure crouches over a guitar, playing against a hurricane. A long cloak whips behind him, illustrating winds of change or a turbulent sea of lyrics. This is the way Bob Dylan might be recognized in his birthplace of Duluth. News of a major downtown Dylan sculpture project comes as this famous son claimed by Duluth and Hibbing is set to be honored with a week of live events in the two cities.

Northern Minnesota sculptor Tom Page of Cohasset will kick off a project soon raising money to bring his Dylan sculpture to full size in the city where the musician was born in 1941. Duluth began its annual Dylan Fest this weekend while Dylan Days here in Hibbing runs May 23-26.

“I never really had much distance between his music and myself,” said Page, who grew up in a blue collar neighborhood in North Minneapolis when Dylan’s music first made national waves. He followed Dylan’s many musical phases while he pursued a career in visual art.

“I got to thinking that could be a fun project. It was not an epiphany, probably a slow swell of 45 years to put the project where I could pursue it.”

The fact that Dylan was from a small town in northern Minnesota came to inspire Page, along with scores of other artists and musicians around the world. Page’s career includes several major public art sculptures around Minnesota.

“I have high regard for anyone who embraces the arts, from Bob Dylan to a fourth grader with oil paint,” said Page. “Most of us, that creativity is squeezed out of us in time. This project is really about Bob’s fans, the people who appreciate his artistry. It’s more for them to have a place to connect all the things that make Bob’s music, poetry and art so special. I hope this becomes that location.”

Page is organizing a pre-launch party for the sculpture project at 5 p.m. Thursday at Fitger’s in Duluth. He’ll launch a website for the project on May 27, followed by a June 3 Kickstarter page which will raise the $175,000 needed to forge the final product.

But Page doesn’t believe that the project should stop in Duluth, adding that a future art project in Hibbing could be next.

“This is not Dylan worship,” said Page. “It’s a place to bring people to experience their environment, the music and social change and causes and all of the things that Dylan’s music represents. If it becomes that, I’ll have accomplished my mission.

“The fact that Dylan came from Hibbing shows that anyone could have the ability to do what Bob did. That’s the appeal that the people of his time here might miss.”

The Duluth sculpture image will be revealed soon, with a target unveiling of the final project in spring or summer of 2014.

This year, Hibbing and Duluth are working together more closely than ever during the days around Dylan’s May 24 birthday. Dylan Fest in Duluth is already underway, with a Friday concert and last night’s popular “Duluth Does Dylan” show. Additional events run through this week until the highly anticipated Blood on the Tracks Express, an actual North Shore Scenic Railroad trip to Two Harbors and back featuring live music in passenger cars.

Friday brings Hibbing’s Dylan Days, including a poetry workshop at the Memorial Building featuring former Duluth poet laureate Sheila Packa and a reading from winners of the B.J. Rolfzen Memorial Creative Writing Contest. (Call Howard Street Booksellers at 262-5206 to reserve a spot in the free workshop). Friday night brings the world-famous Dylan Days Singer/Songwriter contest at Zimmy’s.

Saturday’s events include the popular bus tour of the Hibbing Dylan would have known when he lived here, a second round of the singer/songwriter contest at Zimmy’s and live music by the Adjustments at Zimmy’s that night. More events and information is available at www.dylandays.org.

Dylan’s appeal across the world makes our planet seem a little smaller, its people more alike than you’d think. It’s good to see towns like Hibbing and Duluth, connected by much more than Dylan, but thousands of years of trails, trade, tracks and taconite, working together as part of the northern Minnesota spirit that set him loose on the that world.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and community college instructor from the Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts 91.7 KAXE’s Great Northern Radio Show on public stations.


  1. Gerry Mantel says

    Bob’s history is nothing different than “history in general,” i.e., it’s like the play in football where the quarterback takes the snap from center, and then pitches out to the left halfback … who ain’t there.

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