Sculpture Garden Needs $8.5 Million in Improvements

The following article by Nicole Norfleet was published in the December 7, 2011 issue of the Star Tribune:


So many visitors have trampled through the popular Minneapolis Sculpture Garden that it needs an $8.5 million renovation, Walker Art Center and park officials say.

After 23 years of people visiting the free space, its turf is highly compressed. Some of its trees are dying. And its walkways are worn.

At its meeting on Nov. 22, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board approved an amendment to its 2012 capital improvement request for the Sculpture Garden seeking $8.5 million.

“The Sculpture Garden is a Minneapolis icon and a Minnesota icon,” said Phillip Bahar, chief of operations and administration at the Walker Art Center. It’s a public asset that needs to be protected, he added.

The Sculpture Garden has had more than 8 million visitors since 1988. That’s about 350,000 a year. The Sculpture Garden is the most tagged site in all of Minnesota on Flickr, according to a 2009 Cornell University study.

Walker and park board officials say crews need to resurface compressed and rain-resistant walkways, reset walls and improve plant drainage systems, install energy-efficient lighting, repair and reset granite steps and structures.

Moreover, workers will have to re-line the pond to prevent storm water pollution and minimize invasive plants, install emergency call boxes, enhance access for the disabled, reduce water use with new plumbing and facilities, replace spalling concrete and make other improvements.

“I think this is as important as thinking about a football stadium that’s used for eight games a year,” said Annie Young, board vice president, at the meeting.

This won’t be the first time the park board has requested money for the Sculpture Garden. It previously sought about $8 million in bonding support for the garden’s restoration. The Legislature approved $2 million, but Gov. Tim Pawlenty line-item-vetoed it last year:

The park board commits $250,000 annually to grounds and facility maintenance. The Walker commits $250,000 to $300,000 yearly for arts programming and maintenance.

Other items on the park board’s state bonding request wish list: a welcome and training center in Wirth Park ($2.1 million), renovation of the indoor pool of the Phillips Community Center ($2.1 million), design and initial greening of a parkway along 26th Avenue N. ($1.5 million) and improvements at Father Hennepin Bluffs ($1 million).

For more information about the Sculpture Garden, click here: