The Bakken Museum
is a ghost-story mansion where visitors discover the workings of electricity and the quirky assignments man has tasked it with. But in association with the 10-day celebration of the 2011 Minneapolis Aquatennial
, the museum of electricity's past is devoting its rooftop terrace to an exploration of energy's future. The Green Energy Art Garden, a special new outdoor exhibit funded by a partnership with Forecast Public Art, opens on Friday July 15.
The four sculptures for the Green Energy Art Garden were commissioned specifically for this event by local artists, some working solo, some as a team. Each piece of art has its own way of making the point that renewable resources like the sun, wind, and water can power an exhibit just as exciting as anything plugged into a socket inside the museum proper.
We intruded on the team behind a piece called The Sonic Articulation of Sunbeams
while they were still in the process of construction. Primary artists Emily Stover, Daniel Dean, and Ben Moren were aided by the Minneapolis design/build custom fabrication team of Tandem Made
as they prepared the pieces of a graphite-colored megaphone.
Once assembled, the overscale megaphone would be populated with small solar robots whose only job, aside from obeying Asimov's Three Laws, would be to act as little drummers. Some of these sun-powered percussionists would rattle against the megaphone like a snake's warning, some would pellet the megaphone like rain on a shed roof.
And all could be manipulated, silenced in an instant by a curious museum visitor's hand passing godlike between the sun and the boxie robot's solar panel. Lots of action and noise, but no cords, no strings: just sunshine, engineering, and imagination.
Parents from the Seward neighborhood will probably find their family already has a fan of the work of another Green Energy Art Garden artist--Marjorie Pitz. Pitz sculpted the child-favorite Merwyn, a whimsical troll face emerging from the ground at Triangle Park. Pitz's work here, the Solar Spitters, will probably be another hit with those who would rather play than just look at a display. Set in a plant-filled water garden, goblin faces will either drool, sputter, spit, or gush whatever passes for saliva in the water-garden-goblin world. The force of the flow depends again on the intake of the feature's solar panels which power the pumps.
Artist Mayumi Amada is the creator of "Finite to Infinite," a lit-up kaleidoscope that shows how old plastic bottles can be turned into something thrilling and wonderful with a little help from wind power, sun light, and energy-efficient LEDs. And past visitors to the winter celebration of the Medicine Lake Art Shanties will want to check out "Make It Rain," a solar-powered rain arbor by shanty-collaborators Peter Sowinski and Lucas Koski.
It's free. It's outside. It's kid-friendly. It's educational without being boring and it's artistic without being obtuse. It's the Green Energy Art Garden, and it starts Friday. If you can't make it to the opening, catch it during the 10 Best Days at the Bakken
, when the place is packed with activities and is open for extended hours.