Blogs Centerpoints Jennifer Haugh

A View from Three Feet Up: Eavesdropping on a Sculpture Garden tour

  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 […]

 

Octopus, lion, giraffe, or spider: Which inspired Mark di Suvero's "Arikidea"?

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.

 

Help us preserve your Sculpture Garden! Visit garden.walkerart.org and sign up for the Action E-List to receive e-mail updates (only a couple, we promise) on how you can help at times when it is most needed.

What does it take to spiff-up the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden?

  During Minnesota’s 2010 legislative session, the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board—with the full support of the Walker Art Center—made a request to the legislature for funding to restore and preserve the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The project did not make it through the bonding process this year for a variety of reasons, but it did […]

 

During Minnesota’s 2010 legislative session, the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board—with the full support of the Walker Art Center—made a request to the legislature for funding to restore and preserve the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The project did not make it through the bonding process this year for a variety of reasons, but it did draw attention to the need for a renovation of this 22-year-old gem, a centerpiece of the Minneapolis park system. It also stirred up a group of grassroots supporters—both park and art lovers—who sent a clear message to legislators.

So what’s going on with the Sculpture Garden that needs spiffing up? It’s not the sorts of things that make for great photo ops, like brightening the cherry atop Spoonbridge and Cherry with fresh coats of paint, or Windexing the mirrored scales of Frank Gehry’s fish in the Cowles Conservatory.

In fact, the work involved in renovating a landscape or garden is most always quite subtle — less visible or even invisible — but it’s nonetheless important, even crucial. The pictures here zoom in on some of the ways that more than two decades — and the enjoyment of more than 7 million visitors — have taken their toll on the Garden.

For starters, the linden trees in the image at left would be trimmed to open up views and create the kind of experience intended by the original design. Another experience involves what’s underfoot: If you’ve walked around the Garden in the springtime after the snow has melted or after a heavy rain, you’ve probably noticed how muddy and squishy it is. That’s because the green spaces currently lack adequate drainage and the pathways were originally installed with baseball diamond clay. 

A renovation would include a cistern to collect water runoff so the Park Board can keep the Garden watered in a sustainable way, plus pathways would be resurfaced and replaced with porous materials that would dry more quickly. (While the current odds are already negligible, chances of catching an errant baseball are reduced as well.) Other work on the pond and lawns would prevent storm water pollution, improve filtration and reduce off-site drainage and overall water use.

 

Many trees in the Garden, including the arbor vitae "walls" of its four "galleries," are at the end of their natural life cycles.

The same goes for some of the evergreen border trees.

Granite slabs used for paving, walls, and steps need re-setting, replacement or repair.

Existing wheelchair ramps would be made compliant with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (the Garden opened in 1988), with wider clearance and a gentler slope.

Lighting for evening strolls will be brighter and more energy efficient, new emergency call stations will be installed, and the HVAC/mechanical systems in the Cowles Conservatory would be updated, drastically reducing energy use (and operating expenses). And dying or dead trees would be replaced with live, healthy ones. (Hey, why not?)

Even if you’re not a landscape architect, HVAC technician, or soil specialist, you can help restore the Garden by becoming an advocate. We are building our initial group of supporters into a strong, statewide collection of voices who can help by doing a couple easy things — like contacting legislators at times when it will make the biggest impact (we’ll cue you). Find out more here, and  sign up for the Action E-List today.

Sculpture Garden bonding request wrap-up: We’ll be back!

You’ve probably heard the latest by now: although the legislature approved $2 million in bonds to help start a restoration of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Governor Pawlenty line-item vetoed the project from the bill. While the news is obviously very disappointing, we have much to be proud of. This was the first year the Minneapolis […]

You’ve probably heard the latest by now: although the legislature approved $2 million in bonds to help start a restoration of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Governor Pawlenty line-item vetoed the project from the bill.

While the news is obviously very disappointing, we have much to be proud of. This was the first year the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board made a request for Sculpture Garden funding. It often takes multiple attempts for a project to simply make it onto the legislative agenda. The Sculpture Garden made it into the bonding bill on the first try, an affirmation of its status as a beloved Minnesota destination.

We also saw an overwhelming show of support for the Sculpture Garden’s proposed preservation. Literally thousands of Minnesotans rose to the occasion to advocate on behalf of the project.

If you were involved in any way—writing to your legislators, sending a letter to the editor, spreading the word about the project—thank you! Your help has been essential in laying a solid groundwork for future collective efforts and eventual success.

What’s up next:

Through a public-awareness campaign, which will begin unfolding over the next couple of months, we expect to grow our network substantially and ultimately secure the funding we need to restore and preserve the Sculpture Garden.

How you can help:

  • Join the Action E-List.This e-mail list is exclusively devoted to information and calls to action regarding the Sculpture Garden project. You’ll likely receive just three or so e-mails per year, and only at critical junctures where action is needed.
  • Become a part of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden’s Facebook group. Post your favorite pictures, share Garden stories, and keep up on the latest Sculpture Garden news here.
  • Invite your friends to join both of the above.We need a broad representation of folks from around the state who have an affinity for the Sculpture Garden. A successful grassroots effort includes Minnesotans from every legislative district! Use the http://garden.walkerart.org/bonding URL to forward information to your network.

Thanks again for everyone’s efforts to help restore and preserve the Sculpture Garden. We’ll be back! As they say, it’s not over ’til it’s over.

Renovating the Sculpture Garden: NOW is the time to weigh in

I’ve recently started work at the Walker as its grassroots coordinator, advocating for the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board’s legislative bonding request to restore and preserve the 22-year-old Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. (If you have yet to show your support for the project, please visit http://garden.walkerart.org/bonding  to learn more and to write your legislator.) As part […]

I’ve recently started work at the Walker as its grassroots coordinator, advocating for the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board’s legislative bonding request to restore and preserve the 22-year-old Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. (If you have yet to show your support for the project, please visit http://garden.walkerart.org/bonding  to learn more and to write your legislator.) As part of this effort, I’ve been keeping close track of goings-on at the Capitol — which are especially fascinating this year — and also, of course, tracking where the Sculpture Garden bonding request fits within the overall legislative process.

Which bonding projects are being funded?

Bonding projects, in part, are being selected this year because of the jobs they will create both for the project and following its completion, as well as the “shovel readiness” of the effort. The Sculpture Garden renovation is one such project: most of the work would be completed in 2010; it would generate 170 construction and landscaping jobs (90%+ being union labor); and preserve one of Minnesota’s iconic tourist destinations (45% of visitors are tourists, who bring $16 million in direct tourist spending into the economy each year). (Read more details in this previous blog post.)

So, in an effort to get bonding projects underway and get folks back to work as soon as possible, the ordinary legislative process for introducing a bonding bill started quite early, and has been put on a fast track.

What does “fast-track” mean when it comes to the state legislature?

A legislative process that normally takes months is being compressed into just a few weeks—which makes public input and action all the more crucial. This past week was an important one, as both the House and Senate Capital Investment committees submitted their bills. The good news is that the Sculpture Garden renovation is in both bills; the bad news is that the commitments to the project so far are well below what is necessary to preserve our Minnesota landmark. The Sculpture Garden renovation’s full request was $8.5 million; the House and Senate submitted bills with bonding support at $200,000 and $2 million respectively. 

So what happens now?

In the next week a 10-member House-Senate conference committee will be assembled that will likely begin convening on Tuesday, February 16. This conference committee reports back to the floors of both the House and Senate within a couple days with their recommendations on how to reconcile the two proposals. The entire legislature then votes on the bill and sends it to the Governor.

In the end, the process for a bonding bill is like a “Which Way” Book: It’s nearly impossible to predict the outcome. That said, during critical junctures—like the coming weeks—the chances of success at the legislature are increased dramatically when constituents from all over the state weigh in.

Show Your Support!

It’s especially important to make your voice heard—now—regarding the bonding measure to restore the Sculpture Garden. The legislative process is hard, but advocacy is easy.  Write your legislators today! It will only take a minute using our online email tool, but that minute could make all the difference in the bonding approval process. We need to preserve our iconic Minnesota garden with a cherry on top!