Out in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden recently, I tagged along with a gaggle of field-tripping preschoolers from various day care centers in White Bear Lake. Following are outtakes from their spirited debates about the artistic representation of animals in the Garden.
Kim, the group’s intrepid tour guide, started the conversation: “What do you think you’ll see in the garden today?”
“I think we’ll see a cherry and spoon,” quipped Bella, 5, showing off copious advance research.
Jake, 4, stated that he had seen some dragonflies in his backyard recently.
“I’m three!” shouted Aiden, 3, before telling everyone to be quiet.
Kim moved the group into the Cowles Conservatory, past the fragrant Madagascar jasmines and New Guinea impatiens and into the exhibit space with Frank Gehry’s Standing Glass Fish. “Can anyone tell me what they think of when they see this sculpture?” she asked.
“It’s flopping its way out,” said Caden, 5.
“He got one tail,” explained George, 2.
“What is this fish made of?” asked Kim.
“Likeable stuff,” answered Zander, 3.
Kim nodded in agreement. She told a story of Gehry’s grandmother, who used to come home from the market with a live fish and let it swim in the bathtub until dinnertime. That’s why Gehry likes to make art look like fish, she explained.
Continuing into the outdoor garden, Kim stopped the group at Deborah Butterfield’s Woodrow. “What do you think this animal is?” she asked.
Hannah was certain it was a giraffe. Multiple votes were cast for a deer. Someone suggested it was a moose. Kim shook her head. “Any more guesses?”
“It’s a giraffe,” said Aiden.
Kim provided a hint: “It’s something you might find on a ranch or farm.” A debate followed regarding the constitutions of horses and cows. An agreement was reached. Horse.
The group migrated to see Mark di Suvero’s Arikidea, which Kim alleged to be another animal—but what kind?
“It’s an octopus, because it has lots of legs,” said Nick, 6. Caden thought it had a head like a lion. Aiden thought it was a giraffe. Hannah guessed correctly: a spider.
Seven of the children climbed onto Arikidea’s giant platform and got a push on the swing. Joni, the day’s organizer, brought out her camera. Bella instantly flashed a movie-star grin, displaying missing front teeth.
Responding to an inquiry from Aiden, Kim expressed regret over the paucity of elephants in the garden.
“Can we go see a giraffe?” he asked in reply. Kim looked apologetic.
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