Dec. 5, 2000
Salvati's longevity as
New Ulm city manager
By CHRIS VETTER
Journal Staff Writer
NEW ULM -- A familiar face at New Ulm City Hall will be on display for years to come.
A bronze sculpture of City Manager Dick Salvati has been placed along the western wall in the atrium. The sculpture was presented to Salvati at his 65th birthday party in November.
However, Salvati was completely unaware that someone was working on a sculpture of him.
"It was a complete surprise," he said.
Jason Jaspersen, 23, a Minnesota Valley Lutheran graduate who is nearing graduation at Minnesota State, Mankato, worked on the sculpture from early January until mid-October.
"It was an interesting challenge to produce a likeness of a person without him knowing," Jaspersen said. "You usually want the person to sit in front while you sculpted."
Jaspersen went undercover. Posing as a college student learning about government, Jaspersen sat in at several City Council meetings, trying to be inconspicuous as he studied Salvati's features.
"I'd be doing drawings, trying to memorize features," Jaspersen said.
It isn't easy to go unnoticed at sparsely-attended council meetings, he added.
"There were maybe a dozen people there at most," he said.
City Councilor Denis Warta sought donations from within the community to fund the private project. The 45 contributors paid for the entire cost of the bust, with no public money involved. All the work was accomplished without Salvati finding out about the project.
Creating a bronze sculpture is a long process involving several steps. Jaspersen initially sculpted the figure in clay over a steel armature, which holds the bust's shape. Through the process, Jaspersen makes molds using plaster, then wax, on the way to making the bust. In the closing stages, the bust is heated to 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit to remove the wax.
"It's my first sculptural commission," Jaspersen said, noting that he has done portraits and several smaller figurines. He already has obtained other commissions since completing the Salvati bust.
The bust, mounted on a concrete base, weighs about 600 pounds.
"I've been told a bronze (piece) will last two millennia, so the city has an enduring monument, especially indoors," Jaspersen said.
Warta asked a local artist earlier this year about locating a person to make the bust. That person recommended Jaspersen.
Salvati, who has been city manager for 32 years, chuckled as he looked at his likeness staring back at him.
"It's flattering, but a little disconcerting," Salvati said. "I feel like I should have a foot in the grave."
A plaque, marking Salvati's length of service to New Ulm, will be placed on the cement base in the future.
The sculpture impressed Salvati.
"It's very well done," he said. "This young man has some talent."
See more artwork from Jason Jaspersen at jjjaspersen.com, and on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.