Art to reduce stress sparks religious debate in Delano

An artist’s proposal to build a labyrinth in Delano as part of a public art project is on hold for now after city leaders raised concern that it has religious overtones.

The Delano Parks and Recreation Commission and Delano-Franklin Township Area Historical Society had already approved the installation, but the City Council has voted to table the application until its August meeting.

“Clearly, it implies, as I see it, a religious nature to it,” Councilman Jason Franzen said, according to the Delano Herald Journal.

He cited the website for Veriditas, with which artist Lisa Moriarty is associated, the paper says. It embraces labyrinths as “a spiritual tool that has many applications in various settings. It reduces stress, quiets the mind and opens the heart. It is a walking meditation, a path of prayer, and a blue-print where psyche meets Spirit.”

Does that make it an unconstitutional addition to the public space in Delano?

“The antecedents are from various pagan, ancient, and Christian backgrounds . . . If it was a cross, that would be a different thing because that’s a Christian proposal. This has religious antecedents, but it has a secular purpose, too. I don’t think it’s a Constitutional issue of church versus state,” City attorney Mark Johnson said.

“If someone wants to put this on private land, I say, ‘So be it,’” countered Franzen. “If we grant this proposal, what basis would we have to not allow similar innocuous representations like a display of the 10 Commandments, Stations of the Cross, or perhaps a religious figure like St. Francis or Jesus?”

“Have we looked at the artist who built the horse to see if he had a religious background or if the horse had any horsy religion?” Councilwoman Betsy Stolfa said. “I think that’s just human, not necessarily religious, to be self-reflective.”

When Franzen compared a labyrinth to Michelangelo’s Pieta sculpture of Mary holding Jesus, Stolfa asked, “Don’t you think there’s a difference between Mary and Jesus and a geometric pattern?”

“I think my historical record is explicit for what these are,” Franzen responded.

Councilman Jack Russek referenced a comment that asked if the city would allow a cross on public property if it allows a labyrinth.

“If you allow one, do you have to allow all?” Russek asked. “You have to be fair. I’ve had mixed thoughts about this since I read it in my packet.”

Johnson said a comparison of a labyrinth to a Christian symbol was not a fair parallel.

“There are a number of antecedents to a variety of religious traditions,” Johnson said. “It’s not parallel to the example of the Pieta. That is specific to Christianity.”

The art work, if approved, would not require public funding.

(h/t: Mike Worcester)

  • Al

    Woodwinds, where I delivered, has a labyrinth for patients and visitors to walk, and though they’re privately funded (as much as a hospital can be) and it’s private land.

    Honestly, it’s part of the reason I chose Woodwinds for labor/delivery last time. (Silly me, I thought I’d be labyrinth-walking during labor/delivery instead of rocking in the fetal position, but you win some, you lose some.)

    I will say, it’s the first labyrinth I’d seen outside of a church or monastery, but there must be others. Doesn’t someone in the Cities have one in their backyard? (Now that’s #lifegoals.)

    Edited to add: Well, there you go. There are tons of them all over. What’s your deal, Delano?

    • Nicholas Kraemer

      There is one in the new central park in Maple Grove. There is also one at the Millenium Garden in Plymouth. Both are in public parks.

      • Tim

        Centennial Lakes Park in Edina is another example.

        • Gary F

          There is one near Expo school, formerly Derham Hall high school in St Paul. The nuns that walk it look very peaceful.

          I guess now that the flood protection projects are done and the remodeling of the city park is underway, they need something else to get fussed up about.

          • Paul

            Also one at Como park

          • Michelle

            St. Lawrence Catholic Church by the U of M has one. I’m pretty sure they aren’t a pagan organization!

    • Jerry

      There is one at Metro State

      • Kassie

        Yes, where a creepy dude stared at me the the whole time I was walking it which made it not relaxing nor meditative.

  • Jack Ungerleider

    I find it interesting that the argument is about religion. I see a maze (or labyrinth) and I think recreational mathematics. Many of the great puzzlers in history also had a penchant for creating mazes. (Some far to complex to navigate.) So I guess its all in your perspective.

    • Leann Olsen

      Clearly these politicians would like to save people from the burden of interpreting art at any time.

  • Anna

    Don’t we have enough stress in our lives without politicizing an effort to allow people to escape it for a while?

    This is something that would be wonderful for residents no matter where they live.

    I think we would all be a little calmer and rational if we had a little more “spirituality” in our lives.

    Perhaps the council needs to abandon its ‘Spirit of Community” motto on its website lest it be construed as having “religious” overtones. We definitely want to maintain separation of church and state.

    • connie

      I have suggested a sign explaining that this is
      NOT a religious symbol’. 😉

  • jon

    In the Christian tradition God is attributed with creating light and all things… but you rarely see city councils arguing if light and/or things should be allowed on public property.

    Seems like maybe religion embracing something doesn’t necessarily make it a religious symbol or icon.

    Besides if they build the labyrinth it’s clearly and endorsement of beastiality, such that the queen of crete and a bull might procreate and spawn a minotaur to be housed within!

    Or perhaps it’s a tribute to the David Bowe movie….

  • Kurt O

    Just say that it’s a corn maze without the corn.

  • Mark in Ohio

    “And this is why we can’t have nice things…” I am frequently astonished at the lengths that some people go to in attributing a religious message to everything around them. For some people it borders on an obsession (look up “Monster Energy Drink Satanic Video” for an extreme example). I guess it’s an example of observational bias, where the observer sees what they want to see. Can’t something just exist for what it is, not for some hidden meaning that most people wouldn’t dream of in a million years. In some ways I wonder if it’s a side-effect of those “find the symbolism and hidden meanings” discussions we suffered through in English classes, some sort of post-trauma OCD. It can go too far. I recall a story where a teacher had a famous author in, who listened to a class discussion of all of the symbolism and hidden meanings considered in his story. At the end of it, when asked what he thought, the author replied “That’s fascinating! I never thought of most of this before.”

  • chlost

    You have to be familiar with Delano to fully understand.

  • lindblomeagles

    According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, a labyrinth (noun) is a) a place constructed of or full of intricate passageways and blind alleys; and b) a maze (as in a garden) formed by paths separated by high hedges. Among Greek mythologists, the labyrinth trapped and imprisoned the Minotaur. The word is believed to have pre-Greek origins, and the structure itself was a part of palaces within the Ancient World. It plays a diverse role among the spiritual community being used by several faiths, not just pagans and Christians. In addition to a good and not so good spiritual role, labyrinths have also enjoyed artistic appeal, having been placed on pottery, body art, and computer games.

  • boB from WA

    Maybe the council needs to walk a/the maze, so that the stress of having to make all these decisions can be relieved.

  • Noelle

    We’ve been watching way too much Parks & Rec lately, but this reminds me so much of the crazy Pawnee citizens during the public forums.

  • casimir

    Looking at the photo accompanying the article, I’m caused to think of an amusing sketch that would involve smartphones and lots of collisions. I suppose that’s not very spiritual of me.

  • vincentlawrence

    Well the City Council needs time to pray on it!

  • connie

    My first thought when I saw the possibility of a labyrinth in Delano was ‘yeah!’. I have walked several and find them restful and a time to think. To compare a labyrinth to the ten commandments is getting way off the track. I agree with the person who said we may need to revisit the ‘spirit’ in Delano’s ‘Spirit of Community ‘ if we are going to be concerned about a labyrinth. Just to be on the safe side we could put up a sign that says, ‘This is NOT a religious symbol’. (Humor) I hope the council can get past this and allow the labyrinth to be built.

  • Holophonic

    Delano is legendary for hair brain ideas. If you want to know the wrong answer just watch how this one turns out.