This small community’s art project gives new meaning to canned fish!

The more than 5,000 attendees of the 13th annual Lakeville Art Festival in Lakeville, Minnesota (population 65,000), might have noticed a little extra noise among the 70 artists showing their wares. The pounding wasn’t a jackhammer just out of sight, but the sound of 450 people in the community coming together to create an enduring piece of art to support their local arts center.

People young and old spent six hours on Sept. 19 pounding hundreds of donated cans with hammers and melding them together. The result? A giant, shimmering steel fish, with scales made from the hammered bottoms of cans, that will be displayed inside the Lakeville Area Arts Center year-round.

“It was a noisy project!” says Bob Erickson, president of the Friends of the Lakeville Area Arts Center, the organization responsible for putting on the event. “So many kids hammering the distressed look into the can ends.” Erickson says the organization picked the fish idea to pay tribute to the many lakes in the Lakeville area.

When it came time to collect the can ends necessary for the 7½-foot-long fish, Erickson knew just where to go. He drove down to the nearest Crown Holdings plant, in Faribault, Minnesota, and asked for as many can ends as he could get. Erickson estimates that the century-old metal-can-manufacturing company ended up donating about 600 can ends to the city for use in the project.

Audra Lawson, the Crown employee who orchestrated the donation, told Can Science via email that the company appreciated Erickson’s outside-the-box application. “Bob’s unique use of the ends was certainly special and further highlighted the beauty of metal,” Lawson says.

The project is at the core of what the art festival is all about, according to Erickson. “Each year we try to do something very unique in the form of a community art project that the entire community can participate in, with a lot of emphasis on the youth.” Because the festival is held each year to support the Lakeville Area Arts Center, it makes sense to extend that spirit of community participation and learning new crafts to the festival.

“Honestly, I think it was the first-of-its-kind experience, and I think that’s what drew people to the project,” Erickson says of the decision to work with can ends. “It was just a steady stream.” Participation was so high that the fish became the first-ever community art project finished during the first day of the festival.

Those who were able to participate in the project got to leave a bit of themselves behind on each scale. “They inscribed their names on the back of the can end that they were distressing, and then they went into the project in perpetuity,” Erickson says. “It brought smiles to the faces of students.”