“Garden gnomes would be the ideal finishing touch,” says one Wausau City Council member who privately supports completing the medians on the Hwy. 52 Parkway, west of the State Hwy. 29/51 overpass.
The city of Wausau has about $110,000 allocated—but unused—to complete phase two of the median landscaping. The project stopped dead in its tracks in 2014 after an outcry over the metal bird art installed in phase one, on the east side of the overpass, in front of the commercial development that includes County Market.
A number of constituents complained that the series of rusty metal sculptures are “ugly” or “ridiculous” or “a waste of money.” The herons were meant to reflect Wausau’s natural wildlife—there’s a large rookery on Lake Wausau—and it’s a nod to the internationally acclaimed Birds in Art exhibit at the Woodson Art Museum.
“That obviously was not the right approach,” says Susan Pedestrianson, a Wausau resident who’s leading a contingent of constituents demanding a say in the final landscaping phase of the road. “I understand the need for some kind of art on this city entrance. But why pay a local artist thousands of dollars to create something no one’s ever seen before? For that money, we can get a lot of pretty things that are mass produced in China.”
Pedestrianson is leading a quietly created new citizen’s advisory committee charged with recommending how the city of Wausau should complete the road median beautification.
The group is calling itself the Gnome Art Consideration Committee, or GAC, because large-scale garden gnomes from the start have been the unanimously agreed on objective.
Before making its final recommendation to the city on Wednesday, April 1, the GAC group this weekend set up some test gnomes on the strip of Hwy. 52 to see how they might complement the landscape and blend in with the installed bird statues just down the road.
Pedestrianson says the gnome possibilities are endless. “We can put Santa and Mrs. Claus gnomes out around Christmas and even repaint some gnomes in traditional Hmong dress to celebrate the Hmong New Year, whenever that is,” she says.
She says GAC will recommend against installing those widely available, unfriendly garden gnomes that hold “Go Away” signs, are flipping a pudgy middle finger or bending over to expose portions of their buttocks.
“This will all be in good taste, and I think people of Wausau and visitors will be absolutely delighted,” Pedestrianson says.
To show their enthusiasm, GAC has raised about $1,900 so far toward purchasing and installing 10 to 15 large-scale garden gnomes on the quarter-mile stretch of road. City staff has not yet compiled costs, but estimate that gnomes over 30 inches high are selling for around $79.99, and as much as $219.99 for the big fancy ones.
The Wausau City Council will vote on the final GAC recommendations after it receives the report on April Fools’ Day.