One might expect head-turning art projects coming from students to be found in the art room. For the past two years in Pequot Lakes, some of those projects have been found in the metal shop.
This past school year, students in Brian Alt's introduction to metals class constructed a 7-foot-long walleye, naming the piece "A Good Day on the Ice."
The sculpture caught the eye of the art community, as it was selected to spend the next year on the streets of Bemidji as part of the city's Sculpture Walk.
"It was definitely well worth doing, now that it's being put up in Bemidji," senior Lucas Cartie said. "It shows we have a part of something in that community."
This isn't the first of Alt's classes to have its artistic works recognized. In the 2017-18 school year, the class assembled a towering metal man with a huge iron dog that received the same honor.
"Last year, toward the end of the semester, I had a large amount of scrap material left over from welding practice, so I told (the students) to just go out and create something," Alt said. "The students came up with 'KROG' - this big iron man. One student welded this section of him and one student welded another. There really wasn't a design. They just did this."
Not only was KROG selected for the Sculpture Walk, it was named the Critics' Choice runner-up - the second-favorite of all the works of art on display. This inspired Alt to give his students an artistic assignment for this year.
"This year, I said, 'Let's do another,'" Alt said. "We took a picture of a fish and scaled it up. The students built the framework inside the fish, and they planned him. One group of guys made the tail and another the fins."
Once again, the students' work was selected. On Saturday, May 18, Alt drove to Bemidji not only to pick up KROG, but also to drop off his students' most recent work of art.
Roughly 25 students put in at least some work on "A Good Day on the Ice." For Cartie, much of his time was spent crafting the fishing lure attached to the walleye's mouth.
"I used the orange and yellow buckshot color that is actually used for walleye lures," he said. "I made the back fin out of saw blades and reinforced that too."
After an entire semester's worth of work, the students generally agreed the project turned out better than expected.
"I think it looks a lot better than we initially thought it would," sophomore Alex Morgan said. "We didn't really want to make a sculpture, but I think we're all happy we did now."
The only time the sculpture was visible to students and the public before its trip to Bemidji was at the Pequot Lakes Festival of the Arts, where Alt said the piece received a great deal of positive feedback, particularly from local artisans.
"They like to see young people doing this type of thing," Alt said. "For me, it gives students a large amount of practice (with welding) and they don't really realize they are practicing because they are welding in all different positions, doing a lot of welding and yet it is not this tedious practice project. It was something fun."
Alt and a handful of his students are already discussing what their project could be for next year, with the hope currently being to make a spear fisherman sitting on a pail, in keeping with the theme of this year's work.
"I am very proud of my students. They should be proud. It is just a bunch of young people coming together, creating something and having a good time, and yet they are doing a good enough job to get recognized by artisans. That is quite impressive," Alt said.