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Kim Carlson

Footprint blogger, Green business expert

Green Art At The Bakken Museum

The Green Energy Art Garden  is a whimsical new outdoor display at The Bakken Museum, which opens July 15 as part of the 2011 Minneapolis Aquatennial and the "10 Best Days of The Bakken." A unique mash-up of art and science, the Green Energy Art Garden will be home to four large, interactive sculptures -- each specially designed and created for this project by local artists -- that actively demonstrate a green energy technology, of course.
Four artists, or, in some cases, teams of artists, were selected from nearly two dozen submissions for the Green Energy Art Garden. Here is a closer look at the projects and people that captured the spirit of innovation, art and science envisioned for this unique project:

Solar Spitters
The Solar Spitters are three bobbing water goblins perched in three tubs of gurgling water created by Marjorie Pitz. Solar pumps power these comical heads that “spit” streams of water into the air. When visitors stand directly in front of the solar collector, the goblins stop spitting. Adorned with sparkly eyes, silly expressions and green growing hair (made of wild spiky pond plants, of course!), these whimsical water goblins are a visual delight, and also educate about solar energy. And, each tub is a self-contained beautiful, healthy ecosystem, home to water lilies, underwater oxygen-making plants and goldfish.

Finite to Infinite
As visitors peer into a large series of kaleidoscopes, they’ll be dazzled by the stunning Finite to Infinite visual displays that open before them by Mayumi Amada. Each kaleidoscope in Finite to Infinite houses a unique arrangement of recycled plastic bottles, egg cartons and other cast-off materials to create dramatic, unexpected patterns illuminated by LED lights that are powered by wind and solar energy. The serenely beautiful, multi-colored patterns are reflected in a series of mirrors, giving the illusion of never-ending vistas of fields of flowers, lacy doilies or whatever a viewer imagines them to be. This one-of-a-kind interactive sculpture creates astonishing beauty in a hidden dark space, while demonstrating the intersection of art, sustainable energy sources, and use of recycled materials.

The Sonic Articulation of Sunbeams
Daniel Dean, Ben Moren and Emily Stover created the Sonic Articulation of Sunbeams is a solar-powered acoustic sculpture. What’s that, you ask? Imagine a large steel megaphone that collects sounds, converts those sounds into solar-powered electricity, then harnesses that electricity to activate small percussive devices, called robotic critters. These robotic critters then produce a chorus of dings, buzzes, clicks and pops in direct response to the amount of sunlight collected and converted by the solar cells. In this highly original art piece, visitors will “hear” solar energy. A truly full-body experience, museum-goers stand at the mouth of the sculpture and let the sounds reverberate out of the megaphone and envelope their bodies, or use their hands to block the solar panels, minimizing the sun exposure and, consequently, altering the frequency of sounds created.

Make it Rain
Make It Rain is a playful interactive sculpture by Peter Sowinski and Lucas Koski that invites visitors to experiment with the physical manifestation of the sun’s energy. Comprised of three main parts — a solar telescope, a rain arbor and a solar collector — Make It Rain teaches visitors about activating solar energy. Visitors will step up to the telescope (fitted with perma-dark safety glass) and search for the sun. Once the sun is in the telescope’s sights, a chain reaction begins. An optical switch in the telescope’s barrel activates pumps that push water up the sides of the arbor and down onto a skylight above The Bakken’s permanent galleries, tying together the outdoor Green Energy Art Garden with the museum’s indoor displays. Visitors both indoors and out will watch rain fall while appreciating the beauty of solar energy in action.

Admission is free and the exhibit runs July 15th through the 24th 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily. And evening hours on Friday, July 15th and Thursday, July 21st until 8 p.m.. The Bakken Museum is at the corner of West Calhoun Parkway and 36th Street on the west shore of Lake Calhoun. Free parking is available in The Bakken’s lot. For more information, visit or call 612-926-3878.


Green Dinner Down On the Farm


Dinner On The Farm at Garden Farme in Ramsey, MN

Dinner On The Farm at Garden Farme in Ramsey, MN

Food just plain tastes better when eaten at the source – a farm.  When I was a kid, my Swedish immigrant great grandparents had a dairy farm in the Milaca area of Minnesota.  Each summer my parents would head north to “the farm” for a day long picnic, packing up the kids, dog, melamine dinnerware and a cooler full of beer for dad. 

The day was always the same dreamy event for us city kids: barn exploring, games on the lawn followed by “dinner” at 12:00 on many tables set end to end covered in white tablecloths. Then we would play more games (like jarts - the product liability laws were a bit more lax in those days) or nap on blankets on the lawn before we would eat  “supper” at 5:00 featuring leftovers of what wasn’t gobbled down at the noon meal. Oh, those were the good old and forgotten days!

Until this past Sunday, when I went to a dinner hosted by Dinner On the Farm  at Garden Farme in Ramsey. It was only about a 45 minute drive from my house in downtown Minneapolis and featured The Curry Diva’s, Heather Jansz, fabulous culinary skills and spices.

Garden Farme was homesteaded in 1913 by the relatives of current owner and steward of the property, Bruce Bacon. As one of the first to be labeled "organic", they grow organic greens, fragrant herbs, fruits, vegetables and have bees that make honey. They sell to many local restaurants and food coops, not necessarly to the public.  It was a lovely backdrop for the meal whipped up by the Curry Diva. 


Curry Diva, Heather Janz and the author

Curry Diva, Heather Janz and the author

The late afternoon event started with a farm tour where we learned some of the secrets to Bruce’s organic growing technique. There was also an optional hour of group yoga instruction on the lawn by Patrick Nelson of Corepower Yoga and Betsy Weiner from Yoga Center Minneapolis.

When dinner was ready at 6:30, there were no long tables with white tablecloths, it was more of a casual picnic setup where everyone brought their own chairs or blankets for sitting and eating. For $50/person we supped a senses activating spread of Heather's finest cuisine:  roasted lamb, rhubarb chutney, veggie quinoa, kale and red chard salad served with Knot Stock Beer. For dessert a simply amazing ice cream that was perfectly rich and runny was served with ice chai tea.


Jack Klatt and the Cat Swingers

Jack Klatt and the Cat Swingers

Jack Klatt and the Cat Swingers   played a hipster combo of relaxing music for most of the evening.  The guests were a fun mix of the local restaurant industry crew, and some conscious foodies, some with their kids or grandkids in tow.

 I forgot bug spray so we left before the bonfire (and the mosquitoes) got cranked up. The entire evening was a trip down farm memory lane for me and a wonderful experience all around.  I highly recommend this true farm-to-table experience. Check out the Dinner On The Farm website for more farm dining possibilities this summer and fall.

Another group  offering farm dinners is Tour de Farm  featuring Chefzilla Stewart Woodman at Axdahl's Family Farm on June 27th and several other farm experiences through the summer and fall months.