The No. 2 Pencil Sharpening: the Inaugural Resharpening is complete. Thank you, pencil people. I can’t hardly wait for next June.

2217 E Lake of the Isles Pkwy, Minneapolis, MN. More details below.

The Project

In the Spring 2022, Curtis Ingvoldstad shaped a 20-foot-tall, 32-inch diameter wind-damaged bur oak tree trunk on the lawn of a prominent Minneapolis Lakes home into an enormous No. 2 Pencil. Every year on the first Saturday in June, the community is invited to watch the pencil be sharpened.

The home is the historic Bull Higgins house, as featured in Legendary Homes of the Minneapolis Lakes (and former home of Twin Cities orchestra conductor and Grammy winning recording artist Bobby McFerrin). The structure has prominent frontage on Lake of the Isles.  Long one of Minnesota’s most popular attractions, Lake of the Isles sees over five million visitors a year who enjoy a stroll around the parkway.  As the late local hero Prince once sang, the “drive around Lake of the Isles is cool (I know)”. 


In May 2017, a sudden and violent windstorm swept through the Lakes regions of Minneapolis blowing over numerous massive trees.  One lost tree was a 180-year-old bur oak on the residential property at 2217 East Lake of the Isles Parkway.  While the canopy of the tree was destroyed, its hardwood trunk remained.

The trunk was planned to be harvested for firewood. But then there was an outpouring of support from locals that something special should be done with this odd protrusion to extend the life and give honor to the tree.  This area around Lake of the Isles used to be dominated by a vast grove of stately oak trees.  Between development, disease and storm damage, the heritage of the oak grove is being lost.

Why a pencil?

Minneapolis has a history of prominent sculpture.  Notable are works by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen featuring large replicas of everyday objects. This lake already features one of their works in the yard of a private residence: a giant half-peeled banana. (Floating Peel, 2003)

A pencil — especially the yellow kind with a stubby pink eraser and a shiny metal ferrule — is an object that elicits strong memories. The smell of the cedar shavings brings with it the chatter of students, the click of heels on linoleum, the tick of a clock, ethereal laughter.

Within a pencil is a graphite core of pure potential. Potential to derive formulae, to draft work plans, to create new technology. It has been supplanted by other innovations, but its simplicity continues to make it an essential tool for people of all stripes: restaurant servers, carpenters, engineers, philosophers and CEOs. 

In these times of great bombast and hubris, the pencil is an enduring symbol of humility and epistemic rigor. Something penciled is something we are unsure of – something that requires further pondering, illumination, and exploration.

The Artist

Curtis Ingvoldstad is the sculptor who breathed life into the pencil. He is based in Northfield, Minnesota.

About the Artist

The No. 2 Sharpening: June 3, 2023 1-3pm

The No. 2 Sharpening will be held June 3, 2023.

The public is invited from 1:00 to 3:00 pm for Sharpening Festivities.

The program will have story telling about the project and comments by the artist.   Live trivia contest, t-shirt give-aways, drum and bugle corps, ice cream truck and music.  Fun for the whole family.


David Reesthe professional pencil sharpener, will return to oversee the sharpening. He’s made interstellar leaps in this world with his contributions to sharpening technique and pencil taxonomy.

To make this a “living” installation, the pencil will be sharpened annually with fanfare. Sharpening events will showcase community figures, artists, and innovators. Over the years, the sculpture will change and evolve, just as the pencil in the hand of a student during the school year does.  

No sharpening ceremony would be complete without Rees’ hand. His presence and expertise will continue validate this object as a real pencil, and not merely a sculpture of one.

After years of public display on the parkway surrounding Lake of the Isles, the pencil could be cut down and relocated elsewhere for permanent display. Shel Silverstein, ever knowing of the generosity of trees, is doubtlessly smiling fondly upon us from on high.

Location on Lake of the Isles

Contact Us

2217 E Lake of the Isles Pkwy
Minneapolis, MN 55405