University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum branches out with art garden

  • Article by: TOM MEERSMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 30, 2013 - 9:50 PM

The Chanhassen landmark has received a donation of 23 world-class sculptures.

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“Summer Dance” by Barbara Hepworth is one of the many donated pieces in the new sculpture garden at the arboretum.

Photo: Joel Koyama • joelkoyama@startribune.com,

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One by one, massive sculptures of granite, copper, stainless steel and marble have appeared on a grassy knoll at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chanhassen — markers of the most dramatic way the metro area landmark is expanding its attractions beyond greenery.

Thanks to an unprecedented donation by a retired Wayzata couple, the arboretum has acquired in one fell swoop a permanent new sculpture garden with 23 world-class art works that normally would take many years and millions of dollars to collect.

The full collection, to be dedicated Aug. 24, is one of several planned projects intended to draw more visitors by adding attractions to the arboretum’s 1,137 acres of plants, trees and flower collections.

Operations director Pete Moe said the arboretum, located 22 miles southwest of Minneapolis, is in various stages of planning or raising money for a Chinese garden, a treetop canopy walk, a bee education center at its historic red barn, and a woodland performance space to be developed in the next few years.

The intent is to appeal to a wide range of people who love gardening, landscape architecture, bird-watching and wildlife, native plants and art, Moe said. “We think that they’re all complementary,” he said.

Asked if some might prefer trees and plants to a hill full of art works, arboretum spokeswoman Judy Hohmann said the arboretum has 36 sculptures along its gardens and trails, and the new sculpture garden only occupies three acres.

“An arboretum is not a nature preserve,” she said. “We have display gardens and ­collections, but we’re always trying to engage visitors with the landscape and with nature, and this is yet another opportunity to do that.”

The highly visible location — three acres at the highest point in the arboretum — was one of the reasons Alfred and Ingrid Harrison donated the contemporary sculptures they’ve enjoyed for years on their property. “We’re both in our 70s, so it’s a time of life where you think what’s going to happen to them when you pass on,” he said in an interview.

The gift is a “thank you” to the public for the life and friends the couple has enjoyed for so many years, he said, and the location is perfect. “We wanted them really to be out in the open so people could have a visual experience that is in harmony with nature,” he said.

Art from around the world

The Harrisons were closely involved with decisions about where each sculpture would be located on the hill in relation to one another, said Susan Hamerski, the arboretum’s manager of adult education and curator of sculpture. The collection includes 23 sculptures spread out on the hill, with three more to follow in the future.

During a recent stroll, Hamerski stepped along a newly laid asphalt path that winds to the top of the hill. The sculptures are mounted on bases with plaques, so all that remains before the dedication is adding landscaping and borders.

The artists come from several countries, including Italy, France, England, Zimbabwe and Argentina, and include Mimmo Paladino, Paul Granlund, Rene Kung, George Rickey and Barbara Hepworth.

The oldest of the sculptures dates to 1960, but seven of them were created since 2000.

Art that embraces nature

One of the most striking works is at the base of the hill, a life-size bronze sculpture of an Apache mountain spirit dancer. The work by Craig Dan Goseyun features a dynamic crouching figure with detailed boots and flying fringes on his leggings, but with an abstract face and pointed headgear turned toward the sky.

Nearby, a granite disc with a square hole in its center looks like a giant mounted Chinese coin. The work by U.S.-based artist Jesus Bautista Moroles frames the surrounding Kentucky coffee trees and hillside as viewers walk around it.

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  • A view through “Disc Spiral 2000” as arboretum workers planted near “Blutenmotiv.” The two pieces are part of the new sculpture garden.

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