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Minnesotans flock to Minneapolis park to see 'caveman in ice' sculpture

The artist sneakily placed the sculpture in the park hoping it would get people to get off social media and go exploring. And it worked.

A peculiar piece of art popped up in a lesser-used area of Theodore Wirth Park last week, sending crowds of people in the Twin Cities on a journey to find the caveman frozen in ice.

And that's exactly what the artist behind the piece wanted. 

Zach Schumack – an artist who also runs an "experiential agency" called Leonic that creates experiences for events and businesses – told Bring Me The News he was commissioned to make the caveman sculpture by Gunnar Gapko of Agency 222, an experimental ad agency in Minneapolis, for the AdFed Awards, where it was a "huge hit" last year. 

But since then, the caveman has just been sitting in Schumack's garage in Burnsville.

"We had always kind of had the idea – 'How fun would it be to put this thing in the woods somewhere where it just kind of shows up,'" Schumack said. 

Well, in the wake of everyone being glued to social media due politics, COVID etc., they decided to do it "to give people something else to talk about ... something positive," he said.

Schumack thought it would "hopefully be something to encourage people to get out, go to the parks, go to the trails and explore the park" rather than just sitting around.

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Schumack credits the idea to do this to Denmark artist Thomas Dambo, who builds trolls out of pallet wood and puts them in remote places off hiking trails. He would create a mystery around the appearance of these sculptures and people would flock to go look for them.

"I kind of knew this might have the same effect and it looks like it fits within the park in the snow," Schumack said. "It gets people to come there and wonder about it."

So, Schumack put the sculpture near Bassett Creek in Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis on Jan. 7, without saying a word. 

It took a few days, but people started to notice the caveman frozen in ice in the park, sharing images on social media as they wondered how the sculpture got there. Photos of the mysterious caveman were also published in Sunday's edition of the Star Tribune.

Schumack said he and a few others went to check it out on Tuesday and they came across "probably 25 people" who were looking at the sculpture. 

Everyone Schumack talked to said they saw pictures of the caveman so they went to the park specifically to find the sculpture, and wouldn't have gone to the park otherwise. 

"The goal of which we were going for as far as trying to create some positive interaction with the community seems to really be taking off, and the reactions have been, for lack of a better word, perfect," Schumack said. 

After putting the sculpture in the park on Thursday, Jan. 7, Schumack started getting some messages from friends who had seen his previous social media posts about the caveman. Then on Monday, after the Star Tribune's photo spread – which didn't mention who put the caveman in the park – Schumack said his phone has been blowing up with people knowing he was behind it and started tagging him in social media posts, identifying him as the artist. 

Schumack says this caveman idea – both the original caveman and to put it in the park – was a team effort. The caveman started as a mannequin and his friend, Ian Busse, kept putting layers on the mannequin to get it to look like a caveman. And the ice itself is made of plexiglass and resin, with Schumack noting he works a lot with epoxy resin.

"I didn't know that I was an artist four years ago – I actually hated art as a kid – but everybody has a creative side. Anybody can find a pallet, find some scraps in their garage and make something creative that they can use. It's such a great outlet, especially at times like this," Schumack said. 

Heidi Ledermann with the Loppet Foundation told Bring Me The News this kind of thing has happened before, but the art is typically removed "fairly quickly" if it hasn't been pre-approved by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, which has a process for placing artwork in the park. 

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