In an instant, the navy blue sheet was pulled away revealing Brainerd’s newest Babe statue named Babe the Waabigwan Ox Tuesday, Sept. 21, on the corner of South Eighth and Laurel streets in downtown Brainerd.

Brenda Billman-Arndt, Destination Downtown Brainerd Coalition chair and owner of the Purple Fern Bath Co., did the honor and unveiled the Babe statue during a brief ceremony attended by about a dozen people, including city and chamber officials and the 15-year-old artist herself.

The artist — Aiyana Beaulieu, the daughter of Justin and Anne Beaulieu of Pillager — drew her inspiration for the colorful print from Ojibwe beadwork, tying together the history and culture of Brainerd's Indigenous people.

15-year-old Aiyana Beaulieu, right, poses next to Brainerd’s newest Babe statue named Babe the Waabigwan Ox. The statue was unveiled Tuesday, Sept. 21, on the corner of South Eighth and Laurel streets in downtown Brainerd. Aiyana is the one who designed the Ox with her inspiration for the colorful print from Ojibwe beadwork, tying together the history and culture of Brainerd's Indigenous people. Jennifer Kraus / Brainerd Dispatch
15-year-old Aiyana Beaulieu, right, poses next to Brainerd’s newest Babe statue named Babe the Waabigwan Ox. The statue was unveiled Tuesday, Sept. 21, on the corner of South Eighth and Laurel streets in downtown Brainerd. Aiyana is the one who designed the Ox with her inspiration for the colorful print from Ojibwe beadwork, tying together the history and culture of Brainerd's Indigenous people. Jennifer Kraus / Brainerd Dispatch

“The one thing that I really liked with this project is I feel it is a symbol of healing, love and new growth,” Aiyana said after the unveiling ceremony. “It’s definitely something we need at this time. I want people to look at the Ox and just feel the warmth from it and smile and see the beauty in that.”

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Aiyana said she had a lot of fun with the project.

“This is such an honor,” Aiyana said of seeing her artwork displayed in downtown Brainerd. “I was so glad that I got to work on this project. It was a great way to spend my summer. It was such an honor, too, to work with such a supportive and vibrant arts community, like we have here in Brainerd.”

“This is super exciting,” Billman-Arndt told the people who gathered around the statue at the Brainerd downtown corner. “I hope this is just the start of it and we can see a lot more public art in the future.”

Billman-Arndt thanked all the people involved in the project including Avalon Studios, Nor-Son Construction, Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce, city of Brainerd, The Crossing Arts Alliance, B. Johnson & Associates and the Destination Downtown Brainerd Coalition.

Sue Galligan of the Brainerd chamber said the original statue belonged to Nor-Son Construction as part of the Brainerd Lakes Ox Trot in 2008. Nor-Son donated the ox to the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce, which offered it to the Destination Downtown Brainerd Coalition to add to the artistic and historic appeal of downtown Brainerd.

Josh Porter, owner of Avalon Studios and creator of the ox statue, refurbished and applied the final clear coat. The Crossing Arts Alliance assisted with a call for artists to reimagine a new look for Babe.

Aiyana said the statue got its name — Babe the Waabigwan Ox — from the Ojibwe word for flower. She designed the artwork with ink and then got the paints. She said her father helped her with the paints and airbrushed the background.

One of the challenges during the process, Aiyana said, was that she used a lot of different colors of inks so it was difficult to find the paints to match it.

“It was really a learning experience,” the teen artist said. “It was really fun to explore a different paint medium.”

Brainerd Sesquicentennial Celebration

The celebration for Brainerd’s sesquicentennial kicked off Saturday, Sept. 18, with a week of special events to follow in honor of the city’s 150th anniversary. Here are upcoming events:

Wednesday

  • Business After Hours sesquicentennial celebration — 4:30-6:30 p.m. at Rumbly Hall.

  • Brainerd trivia night — 7-9 p.m. at Rumbly Hall.

  • Downtown Discount Days — All day in downtown Brainerd.

Thursday

  • Brainerd History Walk — 3 p.m. beginning at Visit Brainerd.

  • A Celebration at NPC — 4-8 p.m. at Northern Pacific Center.There will be kids games, face painting, live music from Lakes Jazz Authority, a bean bag tournament, a barbecue contest, fireworks and more.

  • Downtown Discount Days — All day in downtown Brainerd.

Friday

  • “The Crossing” dedication — 5 p.m. on East River Road.

  • Historical museum grand opening — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Crow Wing County Historical Museum.

  • Historic Courthouse open house — 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse.

  • Downtown Discount Days — All day in downtown Brainerd.

Saturday

  • Stride and Seek — 8:30 a.m. to noon at Notch 8.

  • Downtown history walk — 10:30 a.m. beginning at Visit Brainerd.

  • Sesquicentennial bash — noon to 4 p.m. in Gregory Park.

  • Jaycees StreetFest — noon to midnight on Front Street.

  • Downtown Discount Days — All day in downtown Brainerd.

Sunday

  • Flapjack Festival — 8 a.m. to noon on Front Street.

JENNIFER KRAUS may be reached at jennifer.kraus@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5851. Follow me at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl on Twitter.