When I have guests in Minneapolis, one my favorite places to take them is the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Center, one of the nation’s largest urban sculpture parks. When the Garden opened in 1988, it was immediately heralded by the New York Times as “the finest new outdoor space in the country for displaying sculpture.” There you’ll see Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Spoonbridge and Cherry (1985–1988), which has become a symbol of the city.
No matter what you think of contemporary art, it’s hard not to enjoy the setting against the Minneapolis skyline. The Walker hosts all sorts of great events during the summer including the Rock The Garden concerts, movies in the park, and my favorite, a miniature golf course with each hole designed by a contemporary artist.
Best of all, I love watching the way people interact with the art, which is after all, the goal. Click on the gallery below for larger images.
The Sculpture Garden is a favorite place for wedding and prom photos. This couple was just strolling the Garden after their wedding.
I caught this family peeking through a work of art.
You can’t resist interacting with this giant swing.
With his crazy mismatched eyes, this Husky looks a little threatening, like he’s about to pounce and make a tasty dinner of you. Instead, he was just hanging out on the roof of a building in San Andres Xecul, in the highlands of Guatemala, very curious, watching us gringos go by. For more on my bike trip there, see my previous post, Poco a Poco.
The Eiffel Tower is one of the most famous monuments in the world, which means it has
been photographed at every possible angle and every time of day since construction began in 1887. But I’m not so interested in telling you about the Eiffel Tower as I am in letting you know about an an app that that I’ve had great fun playing with, Waterlogue, which turns photos into some pretty cool watercolor painting-like images. It works on any Apple iPhone, iPad or iPod touch that is running iOS version 7 or great. You download a photo, and apply one of Waterlogue’s filters. And, Voila!
As a result, my photo, which is just like those that millions of other tourists have taken, now looks a little different. Give it a try. There are some serious crafty possibilities.
“…. What one can see out in the sunlight is always less interesting than what goes on behind a windowpane. In that black or luminous square life lives, life dreams, life suffers….”–Baudelaire
I have an active imagination. And maybe I’m just a little nosy. That’s why I love windows,
especially at night when the lights are on so I can really see in. Best of all, I love it when there’s a party going on inside and music floats out the window into the street. What’s the occasion for the party–a birthday, a holiday, a casual gathering for no particular reason at all? Are the people young, old, happy? What are they wearing? What’s the topic of conversation? Don’t worry, you won’t find me peering in at you during the night, unless your party looks irresistible. Then I’ll probably knock at the door and invite myself in.
The best window-peeping is in big cities and in old cities where you walk on the sidewalk
right up next to the windows. In really tiny medieval villages, you may look through a window and find yourself only a few feet from a family as they sit down to dinner. You may hear a fight. You may also find someone looking out the window wondering about you.
In Europe they put a lot more effort into their windows than we do in the U.S. For example, here are a few windows in France where windows come with piles of blooming flowers, fantastic shutters, and beautiful window displays that make you want to go in and make a purchase. In France, even the animals love their windows.
The hotels and other buildings in the South Beach art deco district of Miami Beach, Florida, get all the attention. But if you’re there, you should lift your head up from your beach chair and take notice of the collection of whimsical and funky lifeguard stations that extends from the jetty at South Point to 74th Street. If you can’t make it to South Beach, take a look at photographer and former newspaper journalist Susan Russell’s book, aptly titled South Beach Life Guard Stations to see what I’m talking about.
While there have been elevated lifeguard stations here almost since the area became a resort, they weren’t so interesting until Hurricane Andrew swept most of them away in 1992. They were rebuilt with panache typical of South Beach. They serve a very practical purpose for lifeguards, but also make great landmarks when you stroll the beach and an excellent place to meet for beach yoga at sunrise. Here are a few of more….
Ely, Minnesota (five hours north of Minneapolis), is home to the hardest of hardcore outdoorspeople—polar explorers Will Steger, Paul Schurke and Anne Bancroft, to name a few. From Ely, you can launch a dogsledding trip in winter or a multi-week canoe trip through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in summer. Budget Travel magazine named Ely “The Coolest Small Town in America” last year. They said, “It says a lot about a town when there are more wildlife centers (two) than Wal-Marts (zero), and more canoe and fishing outfitters (27) than, well, anything else. In Ely, you’re never more than a step away from the wilderness.” But what if you’re made of less hardy stuff or you’re traveling with people for whom “wilderness” means that the mall is a 15-minute drive?
Ely offers plenty of opportunities for activity and a healthy dose of nature, even for outdoor novices or those who may not be physically able tackle portaging canoes or rugged hikes. On a trip last weekend, we hit the Harvest Moon Festival, complete with
crafty artisans; historic reenactors of the early settlers and trappers of the area, the voyageurs; and a lumberjack show—a little hokey, but entertaining.
My favorite comment came from one of the “voyageurs” who was cooking up some sort of stew in a giant cast iron post. I asked what he was
cooking and he said, “Camp Wander. If it wanders into camp, we cook it.”
Ely is home to the International Wolf Center, the North American Bear Center, and some tasty restaurants such as the Chocolate Moose. You can buy great sweaters and of course mukluks at Steger Mukluk. For book lovers, there’s a nice bookstore upstairs at Piragis Northwoods Company.
One of my favorite stops in town is the Brandenburg Gallery, where you can see and buy
photos from acclaimed outdoor photographer and Ely resident, Jim Brandenburg. His photography captures the spirit and the unusual beauty of the wilderness. Check out his web site to see his stunning photos and a video, and click on this Minnesota Department of Natural Resources link for a video that features his fall photos.
On our recent trip, in lieu of a tent, we opted for a cozy cabin at Timber Trail Lodge where you can canoe, fish, or simply ponder the lake and its solitude from the dock. Famed environmentalist, author and Ely resident Sigurd Olson said
Wilderness is a spiritual necessity. An antidote to the high pressure of modern life, a means of regaining serenity and equilibrium. I have found that people go to the wilderness for many things, but the most important of these is perspective. They may think they go for the fishing or the scenery or companionship, but in reality it is something far deeper. They go to the wilderness for the good of their souls.
Olson was instrumental in the preservation of millions of acres of wilderness in Alaska and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota. He helped establish Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota, Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and Point Reyes National Seashore in California and helped draft the Wilderness Act of 1964. Looking for a little wilderness inspiration? Read his books The Singing Wilderness, Listening Point, The Lonely Land and others.
Finally, talk about “budget travel”–in Ely and the surrounding wilderness, the most amazing sights are free. Lay on your back on the dock at night and you’ll see a show of stars that you can’t see amid the lights of a city. And, if you’re lucky, you may see an even more spectacular show—the Northern Lights. We saw another amazing, though dismaying, display of
nature, the huge Pagami Creek wildfire in the Boundary Waters, which is now so big that the smoke is visible as far away as Chicago. Started by lightning two weeks ago, it has burned through over 100,000 acres. Hopefully, the frost and sleet in the next few days will slow its spread.
For more northern Minnesota-inspired reading look for:
Tim O’Brien- In the Lake of the Woods
Will Weaver – Red Earth, White Earth, The Last Hunter: an American Family Album, and of the short story “A Gravestone Made of Wheat,” which was made into the movie Sweet Land.
Catherine Holm- My Heart is a Mountain: Tales of Magic and the Land
William Kent Krueger– Vermillion Drift
Travel to the places you read about. Read about the places you travel.