Bakken sculpture garden: art fueled by the elements

How do you make energy – something we generally can’t even see – compelling to kids?

In the case of the most recent exhibition at the Bakken Museum, you invite artists to help tell the story.

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The Bakken Museum’s rooftop terrace

All images courtesy the Bakken Museum

The Bakken Museum, located just a block from Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, is currently presenting a Green Energy Art Garden on the museum’s rooftop terrace.

Kelly Finnerty, Deputy Director for Programs at the Bakken, says the museum wanted to talk about green energy, but not give that “same old presentation that’s been done a hundred times.”

We’re a museum about electricity and we wanted to talk about the energy challenges facing our world. The Minnesota Legislature has mandated that 25% of our energy come from renewable resources by 2020; we want to raise awareness about the potential for renewable energy uses in our daily lives.

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Solar Spitters

The museum partnered with Forecast Public Art to create a sort of cross-pollination between artists and engineers. They asked a group of artists to use energy the way they use paint – not just for functional use but with aesthetics in mind. Because, says Finnerty, “renewable energy can be funtional and beautiful.”

The artists then met with a team of experts to help them figure out just how they could bring their “energy sculptures” to life.

The results of this collaboration are four different works of art powered by the sun and wind, that invite the public to experiment and play. Marjorie Pitz’ “Solar Spitters” are three fountains powered by solar panels. As I toured the garden, young boys came running up to the fountain, and by placing their hands over the panels, could control the flow of water shooting out of the mouths of Pitz’ “pond goblins.”

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Infinite Flower Garden

In Mayumi Amada’s “Infinite Flower Garden” a panel of pinwheels made from plastic bottles powers LED lights inside view boxes, forming a kaleidoscope of images and patterns.

Finnerty says the public response to the exhibition has been just what she was hoping for.

They find it creative, cool and fun. I hear people say “I bet I could do that in my garden” or “what a clever use of plast ic bottles!” We take the sun’s energy for granted, and this makes it visible.

Finnerty says the exhibition is just one component in the museum’s ongoing effort to raise public awareness of green energy, including an outreach program in St. Paul Public Schools.

The Green Energy Art Garden will remain on the museum’s rooftop terrace through September 3; families who visit the museum on “Super Science Saturdays” will have the opportunity to participate in conversations on renewable energy.

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