The Arboretum’s palace one year on

It’s been almost a year since Patrick Dougherty (right) visited the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to build a huge site-specific sculpture out of sticks and twigs he collected nearby.

The Arboretum’s Manager of Interpretation & Public Programs Sandy Tanck admits staff were worried that what Dougherty named the “Uff Da Palace” might not do well in with the season’s heavy snowfall.

“We weren’t sure, but it managed to weather all of our snow this winter beautifully,” she said when I visited last week.

It has changed however. Now, 10 months after work finished this is how it looks.

Tanck says every day she sees people stop to stare, and even to clamber inside to check out the intricately woven interior, and the views out of the various windows and doors.

“It seems to be limitless in its ability to inspire wonder and just serve as a magnet to draw people right into it,” she said. This is even though the recent thaw freeze cycle has coated the floor with a bed of ice, which leaves some people clutching at their companions as they slip and slide through.

Dougherty tells the places where he builds to expect one excellent year from one of his works, and then one good year. He generally suggests taking them down after that as the elements take their toll.

Tanck says the Palace has become a fixture, and this summer’s sculptural exhibit of Steve Tobin’s Steel Roots series was designed with the interplay between the new show and Dougherty’s work in mind.

“That one is a remarkable piece in that it’s got this playful aspect that kind of suggests forts and I have overheard children say “Dad we’ve got to build one of these in our back yard. All the adults walking by are just mesmerized by it too.”

“It’s been a very interesting experience for the Arboretum to explore using art to connect people with plants,” Tanck continued, “because there are these artists working in this arena who are creating amazing works.”

The Steel Roots exhibit doesn’t open until April, but many of the pieces are already in place because riggers wanted to take advantage of the frozen ground to get the heavier pieces in place. Things didn’t entirely go to plan, but more of that later.