Meet Edina's Hometown Heroes

Edina is made up of people who pride themselves with making the city a great place for living, learning, raising families and doing business.

Barbara La Valleur

Edina enjoys a deserved reputation as a regional center for fine public art, but the City did not become an art hotspot spontaneously or overnight. As a community, we owe much to the ongoing efforts of a spirited corps of local arts aficionados and advocates – and perhaps none more than Hometown Hero Barbara La Valleur.

La Valleur is a veteran news editor and reporter and an accomplished photojournalist. A long and varied career in that field took her from her native Minnesota – where she was the very first Moorhead State College graduate to major in mass communications – to the Virgin Islands, England, and Germany, before finally returning to Minnesota in 1994. 

Although she is now officially retired, in La Valleur’s case, retirement proved something of a misnomer. La Valleur, who now calls Edina’s Edinborough neighborhood home, seized it as a chance to redouble her life-long advocacy efforts on behalf of public art.

“My passion is to integrate public art in as many areas and venues in Edina as possible,” she explained. “I want people to recognize the importance of art in everyday life in our community.”

At present, La Valleur serves on both the Edina Arts and Culture Commission and the City’s Public Art Working Group. The former is an important, standing advisory board appointed to track arts opportunities and to make official recommendations to the Edina City Council. La Valleur has been an active member since 2011, and will finish out a second term as commissioner in early 2017.

As chair of the Public Art Edina Working Group, a post she has held since 2012, La Valleur plays a leading role orchestrating the City’s annual rotating sculpture exhibit. That showcase began modestly enough, “at Grandview Square, with three sculpture pads in 2004,” La Valleur remembered. “Over the years, we have expanded to three locations,” including the Edina Promenade.

Each cycle, Public Art Edina encourages residents and visitors to vote on their favorite sculpture installations. It is a contest with stakes; the artists responsible for the public’s favorites receive a People’s Choice Award, which brings with it an honorarium and invitation to display the award-winning sculpture for a longer period of time.

La Valleur is as closely involved with the process as anyone. “I spent about 35 hours this year just attending each installation and de-installation.” She makes good use of her photography skills, well honed from decades as a photojournalist. “I photograph the whole process – the artists and sculptures, city employees, family and friends who help the artists – and create a photo slideshow for the opening reception. I [then modify this into] a more generic presentation and give talks about public art at places like the YMCA and Edina Senior Center.”

All this would be a tall order for most, but La Valleur considers arts advocacy energizing. That goes double here in Edina, where “we have several exciting ‘big things’ on the horizon,” she said. For instance, the City is currently partnering with Fairview Southdale Hospital to display local art installations in the medical complex’s new emergency care center. Public Art Edina is also hard at work installing art wraps (featuring the work of local artists) around the dozen City-owned utility boxes scattered across town.

“I particularly enjoy [these opportunities to] encourage young and new artists in their journeys,” La Valleur said.

1 of 51  Heroes

© 2015 City Of Edina, Minnesota