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Work of Art

In its location just outside central Minneapolis, the Walker Art Center stands as a storied architectural fixture with a contemporary pulse on national and international arts and design across eras and disciplines, from architecture, visual, and performing, to media arts. Its famous design by Edward Larrabee Barnes in 1971 and modern steel-clad addition designed by Herzog & de Meuron—plus a more recent addition by Minneapolis-based design firm HGA—are joined with the adjacent Minneapolis Sculpture Garden to form a 17-acre campus that hosts millions of visitors per year.

In the summer, this groundbreaking work of architecture’s rooftop is also the site for ten distinctive, artist-designed holes of mini golf. At Skyline Mini Golf, visitors are treated to contemporary art work alongside panoramic views of the Minneapolis skyline; and this summer, the mini course includes two new additions created in collaboration with Native Youth Arts Collective, an organization connecting Native American teens and young adults with the creative resources of the Twin Cities region, and historical and contemporary art produced by Native American artists.

“We were thrilled to collaborate with Native Youth Arts Collective on two new additions for this year’s Skyline Mini Golf. Each of our ten artist-designed holes are not only visually distinct, but also tell a different story that guides you through this unique experience,” said David Goldstein, associate director of visitor experience at the Walker Art Center. “And the local inspiration is not just felt in some of the mini golf holes; the Walker’s rooftop hosts amazing views of the Minneapolis skyline. It is great to see so many people come enjoy time outdoors with friends and family as we kickoff the summer.”

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Artistic themes from the course’s ten rooftop holes vary from the fast pace and strategy of ping-pong to toy blocks and abstract sculpture. The designs take a local interlude with the fourth and fifth holes, which, respectively, depict a “tale of two cities,” split by the Mississippi River and culminating in the Iron Range; and a ride on the light rail from Target Field Station to either the Mall of America or the Union Depot.

The new additions comprise the second hole, Turtle Pond, and the ninth hole, Dream Catcher. Turtle Pond, designed by Aiyana Kline, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, is inspired by the symbolic turtle in the Native creation story of Turtle Island, and players are invited to tee off from the turtle’s tail to navigate across the shell or through the pond. Similarly, Dream Catcher by Brenna White, Ojibwe, is inspired by the familiar symbol of Native culture. To play, visitors tee off at the top of the net to see where the feather guides their next path.

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The Walker’s reintroduction of rooftop mini golf and new programming follow its recent AIA Architecture Award for HGA’s most recent expansion of the campus, which includes a new entry pavilion and plaza facing the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, a café, renovated lobby, green roof, reconfigured parking, hillside upper garden, and a brick recladding of the original building.

The new pavilion’s horizontal form creates an entry point that aligns with others on the site, such as existing landscaping and the vertical form of the original building, plus the metal-clad addition from 2005. Expansive windows reinforce the strengthened relationship, and a bronze-clad vestibule lined with yellow aluminum leads to a fresh interior finished in white terrazzo floors and white walls.

“The entry pavilion manifests a new public heart for the Walker campus,” stated Mary Ceruti, executive director of the Walker Art Center, in a press release announcing the AIA award. “As we continue to welcome visitors back with new programming after a challenging year that we all shared, we are thrilled that this Architecture Award validates our efforts to strengthen community engagement through architecture and art.”

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The Walker Art Center is once again open to the public, with a variety of new programming indoors and outside to enrich the Twin Cities summer arts scene. This comprises artist talks, hillside concerts, sculpture garden tours, green roof poetry, and of course, Skyline Mini Golf. Visitors can head to the rooftop for mini golf from Thursday through Sunday, until September 26th. Admission is $10 for adults and free for those under six-years-old, with paid adult admission.


Text: R. Collins

Photography: ©Paul Crosby, Aiyana Kline, Bobby Rogers, Brenna White