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Shelbyville art project arrives at final destination

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With the first section of “Blue River- Wind, Rain, and Water” secured to the concrete pad, artist Mike Helbing, second from right, talks with workers Thursday helping assemble the sculpture that was purchased by the City of Shelbyville.
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Artist Mike Helbing, left, discusses the next phase in assembling his nearly 40-foot art sculpture that will sit near the offices of the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce, 501 N. Harrison St. in Shelbyville.

By JEFF BROWN - jbrown@shelbynews.com

“It’s going to be here a long time,” reiterated artist Mike Helbing.

His creation – “Blue River- Wind, Rain, and Water” – is currently being assembled at its permanent Shelbyville home in front of the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce, 501 N. Harrison St. The nearly 40-foot structure, which will be lit up at night, sits at one of the gateway entrances into downtown Shelbyville.

The sculpture will be “officially” unveiled on Dec. 12 bringing the culmination to a hectic year for Helbing, a former Shelbyville resident who splits time between a studio in Chicago and his new home in Tennessee.

“It’s going to take a couple more days because simply ... it’s chilly and muddy and we have to figure out some things,” said Helbing on Thursday afternoon just after the final piece of the sculpture arrived at its final destination. 

Helbing’s piece was heavily influenced by his time growing up near the Big Blue River and Little Blue River in Shelby County. His creation was selected from one of seven different artistic proposals on March 16. 

The City of Shelbyville wanted a striking piece of art to showcase at one of the entry points into downtown Shelbyville. And with help from the Blue River Foundation, Shelby County Tourism, several local businesses and private donors, $150,000 was secured to make it happen.

“This is the first, and sets a very high standard for our public art efforts,” said Amy Haacker, Executive Director of the Blue River Foundation, in a March media release announcing the selection.

Helbing admitted he is honored to create a striking piece or art for his hometown.

“The way I really like it to happen, this would be about an hour install,” explained Helbing. “That’s usually the way I work it. This is much more complex. It had to be cut apart and taken apart to be brought up here.”

The sculpture was built in North Carolina and shipped to Shelbyville.