Caretaker Woman" to watch over Mississippi Headwaters at Itasca State
information on the new Mary Gibbs Center.
On Saturday, Sept. 10, as the public celebrates the dedication of the Mary
Gibbs Mississippi Headwaters Center at Itasca State Park, a special visitor
will take up permanent residence along the pathway that leads to the river's
The new resident is a bronze sculpture by Minnesota artist Jeff Savage,
titled Heartwaters-Caretaker Woman. Savage explains that in Anishinabe (Ojibwe)
culture it is believed that women are the caretakers of the water.
"The responsibility to keep this precious resource pristine and renewable
for all future generations is considered sacred work that deserves respect,"
In his sculpture, a woman is leaning over, releasing a clutch of small
turtles from a basket. According to the artist, this act represents a
renewing of life, renewing of the seasons and a continuation of the waters
of life. Her flowing hair is like that of flowing water. The turtles are
strong water symbols that represent the universal cycles of life in
"The turtle's round shell represents the earth, moon, sun and seasonal
cycles," said Savage. "The legs of the turtle point in the four compass
directions. The head points up to honor Grandfather Sun and his tail points
down towards Mother Earth. Turtles show us all directions of life-they live
in the water, walk on land and breath air. Turtles are a strong symbol of
the importance of this site, located here at the headwaters of the
Mississippi, the heartwaters of this nation."
Visitors are encouraged to "please touch" the sculpture. "Because the
sculpture is made of bronze, the lustre of the metal is enhanced through
touch," said Savage. "I am sure that children, especially, will want to
'explore' the clutch of turtles she is releasing from her basket."
The art piece, Heartwaters-Caretaker Woman, was commissioned through
Minnesota Percent for Art in Public Places, a program sponsored by the
Minnesota State Arts Board and the Department of Administration, with
support for this project from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The program was established by legislation in 1984 to encourage the creation
of artwork for shared public spaces. The law allows that certain state
building projects may use a portion of their budgets to purchase or
commission original artwork.
The selection of art for this project was done by a committee of
representatives from the Department of Natural Resources and art
professionals who reviewed slides of work done by various artists. After
selection by the committee, Savage submitted a design proposal and work
began on the sculpture.
The artist resides within the boundaries of the Fond du lac Reservation with
his wife and three children. With no formal art training, his artistic gift
has been fine-tuned with years of sculpting. An award winning artist, Savage
has dedicated a majority of his artistic abilities to the continuation of
traditional Chippewa art forms. Savage's work appears in various public and
private collections including the collection of the Smithsonian Institute
and the U.S. Department of Interior Museum, Washington D. C.
Click Here To Return To The Previous Page