From the hydroseed that’s painted the hillside blue-green to the newly planted grove of honey locust trees near the Walker entrance to the daily appearance of new sculptures, our campus renovation project is truly ramping up. Updates this month: a visit with sculptor Kinji Akagawa, a spate of new arrivals, and a narrowing of a busy street.
August 23 was a momentous day here at the Walker: the first sculpture of our redevelopment project was installed. Alexander Calder’s Octopus (1964) was placed on a newly poured concrete pad in the Wurtele Upper Garden, near James Turrell’s underground Sky Pesher, 2005 (2005). It was soon joined by other favorites, including Scott Burton’s Seat-Leg Table (1986/1991) and Kinji Akagawa’s Garden Seating, Reading, Thinking (1987), both situated in groves of conifers in the southwest corner of the Walker hillside.
Commissioned for the 1988 opening of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Akagawa’s bench/sculpture was designed to offer respite. “I made the piece, but not just as a bench for physical rest,” he told us in 2006. “Intellectually, you have to rest within that kind of context; emotionally, you have to rest looking at all the sculpture. I included a reading lectern and used familiar, Midwestern materials: fieldstone and basalt from St. Croix. The bench provides psychological rest, intellectual rest, and physical rest.”
Nearly 30 years since its garden debut, the work will undergo some restoration before it opens to the public, says Visual Arts Curatorial Assistant Victoria Sung, who recently visited Akagawa at his Afton, Minnesota studio. “The wood has decayed over time, so we’ve sourced new wood—red cedar—and he will be hand hewing it once it arrives.”
The Wurtele Upper Garden got a surreal transformation on September 20, as umpteen gallons of “hydroseed,” a liquid mixture of grass seed and mulch, were applied. In the photo below, the seeded section abuts the wheelchair-accessible pathway that winds up the hill from the restaurant and new entryway. At left, a ventilation duct is newly planted (and soon to be obscured by) native perennials.
Renovation of the Cowles Conservatory is well under way: glass walls have been removed in the first step to converting it to an open-air pavilion that will offer shelter for Garden visitors and a unique setting for weddings and events.
Meanwhile, Vineland Place is undergoing a facelift of its own: it’s being narrowed to slow traffic, ensure safer passage for pedestrians, and provide a stronger visual connection between the Wurtele Upper Garden and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.
Scheduled to be completed on October 10, the new street will feature a single lane of traffic in each direction, with turn lanes at the intersection of Vineland and Hennepin/Lyndale and westbound on Vineland at the Walker parking ramp.