Kid-Friendly Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

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My tour guide, Sunny, was an older woman with an infectious enthusiasm about Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, specifically.  Sunny by name, sunny by nature I thought. Too bad her name was definitely not reflected in the grey and hazy morning weather.  If it weren’t for the humidity I would have felt like I was back in London.

We meandered around the garden as I listened to Sunny’s anecdotes about the sculptures.  I was pleasantly struck by how family-friendly the sculpture garden is. You hear that people in Minnesota are friendly and welcoming but I was not expecting that openness to extend to their museum.

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden kid-friendly Modern Art
Salute to Painting by Roy Lichtenstein

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden has gotten more than 7 million visitors since it opened in 1988.  Part of the renowned Walker Art Center, the garden combines two things Minneapolis is known for – arts and outdoor space.

The most famous sculpture in the garden is without a doubt Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.  Oldenburg got the idea for a spoon based on the motif he saw inside the General Mills headquarters in Minneapolis.  The building featured their beloved Betty Crocker and her spoon.  The spoon itself is 52 feet long.

Spoonbridge and Cherry

The cherry, weighing in at 1200 pounds, is a fountain.  The stem sprays a fine mist in the summer onto a pond shaped like a leaf from the Linden trees found in the park.  In the winter, the snow piles up so high around the sculpture that only the cherry on top is visible. It looks like an ice cream sundae!

Beautifully landscaped with rows of Linden trees, clipped hedges and well-maintained grass,  the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden spreads out over 11 acres.  If it weren’t for the occasional piece by such notable sculptors as Henry Moore and Isamu Noguchi, the children playing in the grass and the couples out for a stroll along pebbled paths would make it look no different from any other public park.

minneapolis sculpture garden bench

The garden is sprinkled with benches for you to sit and appreciate the art.  It also makes a great space for people watching!  No one was precious about the many babies and children playing in the garden.  These pieces of art are made to withstand the harsh Minnesota winters as well as interaction by the occasional child.

There will be a mini-golf course called Walker on the Green with pieces of modern art opening soon.  Located next door to the sculpture garden, the mini golf will make the space even more family-friendly.  I know my kids will think it is a hoot to hit a golf ball through a urinal.  Just their sense of toilet humour.

Walker on the Green mini golf

My Three Favourite Pieces of Sculpture

With so many choices, I struggled with choosing just 3 favourite pieces from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden to share with you.

Arikidea by Mark di Suvero seemed to be one of the most popular pieces in the garden. Weighing more than 3 tons, the platform on the bottom was a natural gathering place for people and photos. Both the platform and the piece swung gently with any movement even a light wind.

Arikidea Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

My other favourite piece was Standing Glass Fish by Canadian artist Frank Gehry.  The 22 foot high glass fish set into a lily pond is a nod to an abiding memory of his childhood in Toronto.  Gehry’s grandmother would buy a giant carp on Thursday which she would leave swimming in the bathtub until Friday.  On Friday, she would prepare gefilte fish for the Jewish sabbath.

Standing Glass Fish by Frank Gehry

My third choice has nothing to do with animals.  It is Two Way Mirror Punched Steel Hedge Labyrinth by Dan Graham.  You get mazes and labyrinths in gardens in the grand old houses of Europe such as Hever Castle.  This variation on the theme uses modern materials to look at the concept of transparency and reflection.

The photo below shows Sunny standing on the other side of the glass wall which also reflects back on me taking the photo.

Two Way Mirror Glass Steel Labryinth
It’s Sunny through the glass.

The material lets you see through but also reflects back your own image.  It really messes with your sense of perception in a cool way.  I loved the way that children interacted with the hedges and different facets of mirror and metal.

two way mirror labyrinth

Good to Know:

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is the home of 40+ pieces of modern art owned by the Walker Art Center. I took one of the free guided tours available from May through September on the weekends at 11:30.  The Garden is expected to close this September until next year for a complete revamp.  This sculpture garden is so great I can’t wait to see what the new and ‘improved’ version will be.

The Walker on the Green mini golf course is open daily and has 2 courses.  Fees range between $12 for adults and $9 for children.  Children under the age of 5 are free.  In addition, your mini golf course ticket entitles you to a free ticket to the main Walker Art Center (a $14 value).




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