Essentia shares story behind future Vision Northland sculpture

As Essentia gets closer to completion of their Vision Northland Project, a Wisconsin artist has been chosen to create a unique sculpture to welcome patients to the new hospital.

Essentia is proud to have chosen award-winning artist Sara Balbin of Drummond, after a nationwide search for artists with connections to the Northland.

Vision Northland’s interior design committee oversaw the selection process, along with art consultant Integrated Art Group of Madison. There was a thorough review process of applicants, which included submissions of drawings, concepts, models, and personal interviews.

“I was grateful to be awarded this project,” said Balbin. “It felt right and the decision hit home. I intentionally went to the shores of Lake Superior to receive the news. It was both a homecoming and a culmination of my artist’s journey.”

Named “The Healing Waters of Gitchi Gamig,” Balbin’s artwork draws on local history, including the Anishinaabe culture, while deriving inspiration from Lake Superior, wave imagery, rock cairns and more. And while Balbin has been an artist for decades, she was compelled to apply for this particular piece for two reasons — her “Water Trilogy Series” that includes flowing, healing and living waters and her own health experience at Essentia.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021 and received most of my treatment at Essentia,” said Balbin. “Every staff member, nurse and doctor I encountered on my journey to remission touched me and gave me hope.”

The tiered sculpture will have a heart-shaped base to symbolize Essentia’s mission of healing. The rock cairns, which are integral to the sculpture’s meaning, represent a wayfinding guide for patients on their path to health and well-being. They provide assurance for those entering that they are on the right path.

The artwork will be illuminated at night so it can be admired any time of day. It will be approximately 10 feet high, 12 feet wide and five feet deep. The body of the sculpture will be stainless steel, a beautiful and practical material that does not require maintenance.

Balbin is currently working on the sculpture. It is set to be installed in the spring of 2023.