“What is that supposed to be,” asked the uninitiated viewer of a large mass of twisted steel. “It’s not supposed to be anything,” answered the savant, “It’s art.”As artists attempt to portray a concept or a feeling through an abstraction, sometimes the artist’s intentions are not fully communicated through the object of the viewer. That may be the case in many of the following examples found throughout the metro area. See if you agree.

Franconia Sculpture Park
29836 St. Croix Trail N
Franconia, MN 
(651) 257-6668 
www.franconia.orgTwenty acres of rampant innovation in sculpture is enough to satisfy the avid aficionado of the arts. Artists and art lovers come together in residencies and workshops under the protective wing of a community arts organization, making art fun again. In this environment, the sculpture doesn’t have to mean anything. And maybe that’s why this park is so successful. Located about 45 miles northeast of St Paul, this sculpture garden is definitely something to be seen.

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Western Sculpture Park
Marion Ave. between Interstate 94 and University Ave.
St Paul, MN 55103
(651) 290-0921
www.publicartstpaul.orgSome sculptures were created on site, some works are on loan by artists and some pre-date the establishment of a park in the middle of a densely populated neighborhood. Western Sculpture Park is produced and sustained by Public Art Saint Paul, a nonprofit focal point for artists, private funders and the city of St Paul. This organization plans and designs public places and structures, creates works of art for public places, develops temporary installations and produces public art events. The sculpture park is located just west of the Minnesota State Capitol.

(Hennepin Avenue Utility Art Boxes / Credit: Robin Johnson)

Hennepin Avenue Utility Art Boxes
Hennepin Ave. between Washington Ave. and Spruce St.
Minneapolis, MN 55401
(612) 673-3000

“Boxes that control traffic lights all over the world are frequent targets for graffiti,” says Mary Altman, Minneapolis’ public arts administrator. The city’s first utility box beautification project was downtown on Hennepin Avenue in 2008. Hennepin Theatre Trust, a leader in downtown beautification, won the grant and was given a permit to beautify boxes. It selected local artists, each of whom designed and painted boxes independently, resulting in a wide array of outcomes. Utility box beautification projects now abound in other areas of Minneapolis.

(Metal Cow of Northeast / Credit: Robin Johnson)

Metal Cow of Northeast
Sentyrz Ethnic Market
1612 2nd St. N.E.
Minneapolis, MN 55413
(612) 781-3484

“My CPA is a practical joker and he is the cheapest guy in the world,” says Walter Sentyrz, third-generation owner of Sentryz Ethnic Market. “He said he bought me a cow and I should pick it up at a machine shop on 40th and University. I had to pay $500 for the cow and have it delivered,” he comments. Walter says he is thinking of having a contest at the local grade school for best design and let them paint it. However, its original finish is patriotic and classic.

(Riverside Plaza / Credit: Robin Johnson)

Riverside Plaza
1600 S. 6th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55454

The Mondrian-in-the-sky buildings near the University of Minnesota’s West Bank were a head-turning utopian dream designed by the venerable architect, Ralph Rapson. The development has drawn criticism as it has aged, but will be frozen in time because it is on the National Register of Historic Places and is finishing a $132 million renovation project this fall. The building can easily be seen from major highways including 35W. Take a look on your next drive by.

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Robin Johnson was born in Annandale, Minn. and graduated from the University of Minnesota where he studied Political Science, Business and Industrial Relations. A writer for Examiner.com, he also consults with a variety of organizations and individuals helping them develop and grow. His work can be found at Examiner.com.