Parts of Verso paper mill to become art in Sartell

The Verso paper mill in Sartell
The Verso paper mill in Sartell, where one person was killed and five were injured in an explosion that caused a large fire in 2012.
MPR Photo/Conrad Wilson, file

The Verso Paper Corp. mill was a key part of Sartell before it was put out of commission by a 2012 fire. Now, a local artist and Sartell High School teacher have found a way to keep pieces of the mill in the community.

The pair is leading a project that will repurpose pieces of building into sculptures -- which will also serve as bike racks around town.

"Growing up, the mill was kind of always in your peripheral," local artist Heidi Jeub told the St. Cloud Times. "It was almost mythical in a way -- an icon of industry. But it was also like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as this thing you never saw inside."

"Now we are trying to find an interesting way for people to see inside this thing that was so crucial to the community."

Jeub and Sartell High School technology education teacher Joe Schulte plan to start sculpting this summer. The city of Sartell awarded them a $1,800 grant for the project, the money coming from the Central Minnesota Arts Board, which distributes state funds.

The mill opened in 1905, two years before Sartell became a city. It was permanently closed after the 2012 fire killed one person and injured a handful of others.

Jeub, who recently earned the 2014 Central Minnesota Arts Board Emerging Artist Award, will consult artists throughout the state. Schulte will be in charge of cutting materials.

"It is a really cool opportunity to honor the history of the city," Schulte said.

Schulte recently toured the abandoned mill and marked aluminum and metal materials for the sculptures.

"It was almost like a nuclear bomb site," Schulte said. "Not a blow-up site but just how everything was evacuated. There were lunch pails and shoes still sitting right where they were left."

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.