Joe Nathan

Joe Nathan
Humble and widely honored Nick Legeros, a Minnesota sculptor, is one of the most fascinating artists and parents I’ve met in a long time. He’s the subject of a recent, beautifully illustrated book, “Nick Legeros, Sculpting a Life,” by Karin Winegar. We talked late in July about his work — both as an artist and as a parent.
Legeros started working at age 7 in his family’s restaurant, the Rainbow Café. He recalls chopping vegetables and husking corn for $1 an hour. He’s been working hard ever since.
He’s created more than 500 sculptures, many found in parks such as Westwood Hills Nature Center in St. Louis Park, Centennial Lakes Park in Edina and the Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen. Other well-known sculptures include one of “Goldy Gopher” at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, and Sid Hartman at Target Field.
Legeros, 67, has no plans to retire, explaining, “I love what I do.” His advice for young people includes this: “Find work that’s very fulfilling to you.”
His advice to parents and educators is very positive: “Encourage youngsters. Help them find and develop their interests and passions. The world can be a tough place. Some will discourage young people. They need our support.”
He cited the example of his son, who decided he wanted to play the oboe. But his music teachers questioned his ability on the instrument. Legeros continued to support his son, who’s gone on to be selected for a national military band on the oboe. “Encouragement matters,” Legeros emphasized.
So is modeling by parents. He believes, and I agree: “If you’re passionate about certain things, your kids will love those things too. You have a much greater influence over youngsters than you think — both positive and negative. Our behavior is reflected in our children.”
We talked about why Legeros has been successful as an artist. He believes it’s in part because he’s joined a variety of groups, as he puts it, to “connect with the community.” People have learned about his work and invited him to create something for their community — in a park, business, university, school or home. He explains, “I get to meet a lot of interesting people. Hopefully I exceed their expectations.”
He has a fascinating (and in my experience, unusual) attitude toward the sculptures he produces. “Most of what I do is about helping other people – memorize something, make their place more beautiful – say something they can’t say themselves.” So the focus of his work is not on the sculpture itself but on how that object helps accomplish something for other people.
Legeros, who lives in Edina, taught for 20 years at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts. He left in 2003 and opened the Blue Ribbon Studio in Northeast Minneapolis. He told me, “I welcome visitors — although I ask people to call first.” Contact information is on his website, The beautifully illustrated book about Legeros is available from the Edina Community Foundation,
Legeros is currently working on, among other things, a sculpture for the Mapleton Public Schools and another for the University of Minnesota, Duluth. As we concluded our conversation, he told me, “You have to be curious, part of the community, and resourceful.” Seems like great advice for all of us.
Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school educator and PTA president, directs the Center for School Change. Reactions welcome at
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