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Parts of burned-out paper mill to become community art

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The burned-out hulk of the old Verso paper mill is still standing in the city of Sartell, Minn. The plant has been closed since 2012 when it was significantly damaged by an explosion and fire, and its new owners have not yet announced what they plan to do with the site.

But soon, parts of the old mill will become visible, and usable, in the city again.

A local artist and a high school teacher are planning to make sculptures out of some metal building parts, which will also serve as bike racks around Sartell, the St. Cloud Times reports.

Local artist Heidi Jeub and Sartell High School technology education teacher Joe Schulte received an $1,800 grant from the Central Minnesota Arts Board to complete the project.

According to the arts board, the project will utilize "the creativity and talent of local artists to create bike racks and benches that tell a story of the role of industry in Sartell's history, and make art more visible."

Both Jeub and Schulte are graduates of Sartell High School.

Jeub told the Times the project honors the importance of the mill, which first opened in 1905, to the city of Sartell. She noted that it's been a part of the cityscape for residents for decades.

"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 said.

Schulte will be in charge of cutting the materials, and recently toured the old mill to start choosing which pieces will be used for the sculptures.

"It was almost like a nuclear bomb site," Schulte said to the Times. "Just how everything was evacuated. There were lunch pails and shoes still sitting right where they were left."

Jeub said she will consult other artists throughout the state to create the functional sculpture.

Jeub also helped lead a community art project in St. Cloud last year, called the Seberger Fence Mural Project. She was recently recognized with the 2014 Central Minnesota Arts Board Emerging Artist Award.

Jeub and Schulte plan to start making the sculptures this summer, according to the Associated Press.

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