following article appeared in the Oct. 6, 2002 issue
of the Buffalo Drummer.
If you are interested in viewing this larger than life swan sculpture
in person you'll find it located outside in front of the Monticello
Community Center building on the Walnut Street side, just off Highway
25 N. The Monticello Chamber board, in honor of the swans, voted
to adopt the city park located on Mississippi Drive, east where
the trumpeter swans are fed daily by a Monticello resident who lives
take flight at Monticello
By Karen Laven
local artist Parker McDonald a pile of 18-gauge stainless steel, a plasma
cutter and a welder, and he'll give you three glorious trumpeter swans
in flight. McDonald's transformation of sheets of steel into stunning
sculpture will soon grace the Walnut Street entrance to the Monticello
The cost of the sculpture is $12,000 and is funded by the
Monticello Community Partners. This downtown revitalization group, which
is in the process of disbanding, decided that the remaining funds would
go towards something good for downtown.
The initial concept for creating a piece honoring this species
of bird came from Wojchouski, who is also Director of the Monticello Area
Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Monticello Design Team.
These lovely birds are a protected species that have enjoyed
a major resurgence in the Monticello area, where they remain through much
of the year.
The design team contacted McDonald about building a sculpture
for the site because they knew his work well. The artist has lived in
the area for 13 years and painted several murals there, including the
western scene mural on the outside wall of the River Inn, as well as the
mural in River City Lanes and at the Jade Patrick Salon.
In addition, he will soon be painting a mural on the wall
in the pool area of the Monticello Community Center, where he recently
painted images on the bottom of the center's pool.
Amazingly, this man has painted close to 75 murals over
the years, the vast majority of them in Colorado where he used to live.
He has painted murals for day care centers, pediatricians' offices and
more. Many of his paintings are wildlife-themed and western-themed, he
He has also crafted several sculptures in the past from
mediums such as clay and wood, but on a decidedly smaller scale. When
the design team met with McDonald they requested that this large sculpture
would be made as kid-proof as possible, and that it would be built of
material "that would last."
McDonald drew up a design of three air-borne swans, selecting
the heavy steel as the medium because it is sturdy and lighter in color
-- more suitable to depict the white birds. He also believed it would
look good against the backdrop of the center.
McDonald said he had never taken on such a massive assignment
"It's the biggest project I've done so far," he noted. "The
size alone is a new challenge."
Still, Wojchouski and the design team had no problem placing
their trust in McDonald's artistry.
"He's such a talented man," she stressed.
The fact that McDonald had never worked with stainless steel
and that he wasn't familiar with welding didn't deter him. He confidently
allowed his creativity to take flight.
The Monticello resident began the project in June, and according
to Wojchouski, the design and the medium were just what they were looking
"It's absolutely incredible," she said.
Still, it wasn't a simple process to undertake. First McDonald
drew an outline of each piece on the metal and then he had to cut each
one out. Each bird consists of 100 individual pieces, ultimately welded
together as one.
"Stainless steel is pretty tough -- literally," commented McDonald.
"It's hard -- and harder to work with because of it."
The artist uses several tools including a plasma cutter and says he "fights
with the steel, bashing it with a hammer," to get it to conform to
The most difficult aspect of sculpting this sculpture, says
McDonald, "is the actual mechanical part of my welding."
He figures that those who weld for a living might notice
some welding flaws, but he's okay with that. The birds are not perfect
creatures, he said, and neither should the sculpture depicting them.
Working with stainless steel also limits the detailing that
can be done, he commented, adding that the curved portions of the body
were the most difficult to concoct, while the wings were "relatively
Each delicate-looking swan weighs in at a hefty 150 pounds,
and each bird took approximately 80 hours to create. The creatures are
about 25 percent larger than life-size, noted McDonald.
The birds are each 7 feet long with a wingspan of 9 feet.
When completed, the swans will be staggered at varying heights. The lowest
will float around 7 feet off the ground, and the highest will soar to
20 feet tall.
Wojchouski has already seen the work in progress and is
picture doesn't do it justice," she commented.
McDonald has been painting for many years, including his
work that made him the regional winner for the Ducks Unlimited Print,
as well as placing close to the top in several of the Minnesota Duck Stamp
competitions. Yet, he thinks perhaps it is this three-dimensional medium
that flows freest from his hands.
"I'm probably a better sculptor than a painter,"
he shared. "Sculpting comes more naturally for me."
McDonald continued, "Before now, I've been a full-time
carpenter forever, and a part-time artist."
That recently changed, however, when the company he was
working for went out of business. Subsequently, McDonald has been able
to work full-time on his art and has found it greatly to his liking.
"I'm hoping that lots of work comes in so I can continue
doing so," he mentioned.
"I have so many potential paintings and sculptures
in my head that I'd never run out," he added.
He definitely enjoys pounding steel.
"It's better than pounding nails!" he quipped.
McDonald is married and the father of 7 children ranging
in age from 4 to 25.
"They all have their special talents," he said,
adding that the boys are particularly helpful when moving the weighty
swans is necessary, which it will be very soon since he is very close
to finishing off the final bird.
The sculpture will likely be in place well before the end
of October. Once the footings are in and the individual pieces are transported,
the sculpture will take several days to assemble/weld outside the Monticello
Community Center. The process will include installing a tripod and support
For this particular sculpture, McDonald admitted that it
has been necessary for him to teach himself as he goes along. Thankfully,
he is a quick study.
"I got a big pile of steel and a welder," he commented
with a modest shrug. "And I just did it."
If you are interested in purchasing McDonald's regional
Ducks Unlimited print or in commissioning any artistic projects, call
above article and photos appear with permssion of The