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Dylan group infuses art, music into Hibbing

Robert Zimmerman's (Bob Dylan) Hibbing High School senior photo.

Partygoers in Hibbing celebrated Bob Dylan's birthday on Wednesday with a dinner buffet and live music by local group Cowboy Angel Blue.

Events honoring the iconic singer-songwriter have popped up in Hibbing in recent months as the Hibbing Dylan Project has gained steam since its inception last fall. Recently, the group has approached the Hibbing School Board to install a piece of art at Hibbing High School where Dylan, who was born Robert Zimmerman, graduated. The Hibbing Dylan Project has been raising money to pay for the artwork since the group was created when Dylan received the Nobel Prize in Literature last fall.

The sculpture is meant to inspire students to follow in Dylan's footsteps influencing the world, said Craig Hattam, a retired Hibbing teacher and co-chair of the Hibbing Dylan Project. Hattam noted that the Northland has produced famous athletes, business professionals and politicians that serve as role models for students.

"Bob can inspire kids in the arts. I see it partly as an inspirational thing for our students who are in the arts or students in general in Hibbing who want to go out and do something with their lives when they leave," he said.

The school board began discussing the proposed artwork at a meeting earlier this month, and the Hibbing Dylan Project hopes to continue discussions with the board in June.

The proposed artwork would include a wall with brick and stonework matching Hibbing High School's exterior on one side. The other side would include steel set in stone and Dylan's lyrics, facing the school.

"People can really have a chance to interact with his lyrics, have a chance to be really immersed in them, be surrounded by his work. That in and of itself will be really educational," said Katie Fredeen, co-chair of the Hibbing Dylan Project.

The sculpture will also include an empty chair facing the lyrics to provide a space for inspiration.

"That chair is empty so that the next person can go do something great out in the world, whether that 'out in the world' is in Hibbing or in the broader perspective like with Bob," Hattam said.

The next generation

Hattam floated the idea on Facebook last fall of a Dylan statue in Hibbing that snowballed into the creation of the Hibbing Dylan Project. Dylan's family has asked that the songwriter be honored through education in the community instead of a statue of Dylan.

"I think we're doing something really good for our community because I like that there's two parts of it. There's the inspirational part that people can be inspired by his work and there's also an educational component that we have," Hattam said. "We want kids to (learn) a little bit more about Bob Dylan and, at the same time, maybe get their own feelings about him to inspire themselves onto their own great work. They don't have to be famous people to do great work, but if you inspire individuals to go on to their own great work, you can change the world a little bit."

Among the Hibbing Dylan Project's events so far was a night of live music by Hobo Revival in April to coincide with Dylan receiving his Nobel Prize in a private ceremony in Sweden.

As part of its mission to provide education, the Hibbing Dylan Project encouraged elementary students to learn about Dylan via a coloring competition in which more than 450 students participated by coloring a picture of a guitar. Some students were really creative, infusing the guitar with a lot of color, while others drew Dylan holding the guitar or included Dylan's lyrics in their drawing, Fredeen said. Area businesses donated prizes for the top drawings, which are on display at the Hibbing Public Library and JJ's Coffee and Cream.

"We're trying to be as inclusive to the community as we can be and reach out to different groups of people and businesses for anybody who wants to get involved and celebrate Dylan and his accomplishments throughout his career," Fredeen said.

Lincoln Elementary students also created acrylic paintings of Dylan, with the help of retired art teacher Marva Harms, to display at the school's annual talent show, where some of the students sang and played instruments.

The Hibbing Dylan Project is also behind four murals by Hibbing residents created in storefront windows in downtown Hibbing for the summer. A fifth mural from a Coleraine resident is expected to be installed soon, Fredeen said. After the call for artists in March, Fredeen noted that they received interest from all over the country.

The murals include a display of pictures taken around Hibbing, created by a Hibbing High School photography class, where students were able to apply what they learned in class to the mural while learning about Dylan, Fredeen said.

"We're trying to get the public used to the idea of public art in town and continue to educate people on his career and his writing. We're just trying to infuse a little of Bob Dylan here and a little there," she said.

She added that she has noticed other storefronts are getting into it with a display of Dylan's album covers and a silhouette of Dylan in the window.

"It's fun to be able to stroll downtown and see that stuff happening," she said. "It's great. The community is starting to get excited about it and participate and do their own thing. It's starting to get legs. People are starting to do their own thing and get on board with it."

For more information, visit the Hibbing Dylan Project's Facebook page.