Our Complete Guide to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

minneapolis sculpture garden guide

Looking for a local’s inside scoop on the Minneapolis Sculpture Gardens?

We’ve got you covered.

Over the years, we’ve brought tons of visitors to the sculpture gardens to see one of Minneapolis’s most iconic attractions – the Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture.

After a ton of those visits, we’ve picked up lots of useful tips and fun history about the park. In this big guide, we’re sharing all that info with you!

About the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden (AKA the Walker Sculpture Garden) is arguably the most popular public park near downtown Minneapolis. Every year, over 700,000 visitors come to check out its beautiful grounds.

And for good reason! If you’ve got some time to burn and the weather is nice, a visit to the park makes for a fantastic, relaxing afternoon.

The garden includes over 40 different sculptures, including one of the classic Minneapolis postcard shots – The Spoonbridge and Cherry.

History of the Minneapolis Sculpture Gardens

The sculpture garden dates back to 1913, when the land served as a floral garden for over 50 years. In the 1950s, the area became a 16,000 seat amateur football stadium and even hosted huge outdoor concerts. (Simon and Garfunkel was the last big name act to play at the stadium, in 1983.)

Eventually, the Walker Art Museum paid the $1 million price tag to demolish the stadium. And in 1988, the museum made a groundbreaking collaboration with the Minneapolis Parks and Rec board to open one of the first urban sculpture gardens in the United States.

The sculpture park was a huge hit, and it spurred on the creation of many more sculpture gardens in other cities around country.

Recent Renovation

For decades, the garden layout remained mostly unchanged.

Then, in 2017, the Walker completed a total redesign of the grounds. They removed the secluded, almost hedge-maze design in favor of a more sprawling, open concept filled with green space and pollinator gardens.

At first, I wasn’t a huge fan of the change. But then I realized I was being a little harsh on the place, and I should probably give the newly planted trees a little more time to grow before I rushed to any judgments. When I later learned that the renovation was mostly to make the grounds more sustainable (they regraded much of the landscape to preserve rainwater) I felt extra guilty.

And I have to say, on a recent trip, I was absolutely blown away with how beautiful the gardens are becoming.

The Main Attraction – The Spoonbridge and Cherry Sculpture

spoonbridge and cherry

Definitely the most famous piece within the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is The Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture.

Most people will immediately recognize this sculpture as an unofficial landmark of The Twin Cities. There’s just something about that giant freakin’ spoon that draws people in. Maybe it’s the contrast of the bright red cherry, defying gravity with its delicate placement on top. Or the whimsical water fountain, spraying from the cherry stem during Summer months and into the reflecting pool below.

But most likely, it’s the sculpture’s the sheer size.

Pictures don’t really do the thing justice. In total, the huge spoon measures 52 feet long, 30 feet tall , and 13 feet wide. And it weights nearly 7,000 pounds. (The spoon itself weighs in at a whopping 5,800 pounds, and the cherry alone weighs another 1,199 pounds.)

So then it’s kind of ironic that this giant sculpture may have contributed to Minneapolis’s unofficial nickname of “The Mini Apple” – a play on New York City’s “Big Apple” nickname, and no doubt inspired, at least somewhat, by the cherry looking sort of like an apple.

When was the Spoonbridge and Cherry made?

The Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture was commissioned in the mid 1980s and completed in 1988.

It was fabricated over a two year period in two shipyards. Interestingly, neither of those shipyards were in Minnesota. (One was in Maine, the other Rhode Island.) The sculpture was then finished in Connecticut, before being shipped to Minneapolis and placed into the garden via crane, on May 9, 1988.

The official opening day was September 10, 1988. Naturally, the opening ceremonies included a band of spoon players…

Who created the Spoonbridge and Cherry?

The sculpture was created by the husband and wife artist team Claus Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

The couple was famous for their pop art sculptures of oversized, mundane items. Some of their most famous works include oversized sculptures of lipstick, typewriter erasers, broken buttons, and the like.

According to the artists, the spoon portion was Oldenburg’s idea, and van Bruggen added the cherry.

What’s the Spoonbridge and Cherry made of?

The famous sculpture is built from aluminum and stainless steel. The outside is coated in a polyurethane enamel, which gives the sculpture its mesmerizing, matte appearance.

Where is the sculpture?

You can’t miss it! It sits smack in the middle of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and you can see it from every angle in the park.

What is the meaning of the Spoonbridge and Cherry?

Here’s the vague description provided by the artists:

In searching for a subject that was horizontal and included fountain elements, so as not to dominate the other sculptures in the garden, we tried a spoon over water, terminating in an island, similar in form to an earlier fantastic proposal to replace Navy Pier on Lake Michigan.

Its silver color and edges suggested ice-skating, a popular activity during Minneapolis’ several months of winter. The raised bowl of the spoon, in its large scale, suggested the bow of a ship.

Coosje, however, had always considered the spoon form in itself too passive a sculptural subject, which she had once playfully demonstrated by placing a wooden cherry with a stem made from a nail into a spoon found in the studio, an act that instantly energized the subject. The combination was now repeated in the presentation model for the garden sculpture.

Personally, I’m not really sure if that clears up anything at all. Then again, isn’t the mystery of art half the fun?

More fun facts about the famous Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture:

  • It cost $500,000 to make and was funded by Frederick R. Weisman (Yes, the same Weisman who the University of Minnesota’s Art Museum is named after.)
  • Viewed from above above, the sculpture’s pond is shaped like a linden tree seed. This is a reference to the linden trees that line the gardens.
  • If you look closely, the cherry sprays water from the base of its stem, too. This helps give the cherry its signature shine.
  • The Walker Art Center receives more requests for images of the Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture than any other work in the museum’s collection. Considering the museum holds over 13,000 pieces, that’s saying something!

Other Sculptures in the Gardens

Aside from the garden’s most iconic sculpture, the grounds include tons of other interesting sculptures.

The most notable is also one of the newest. In 2017, keeping with the theme of oversized stuff, the gardens added a big blue cock that immediately became a fan favorite. The rooster is over 25 feet tall and glows an eye-searing blue, like some sort of radioactive accident.

minneapolis big blue cock statue

All in all, there’s over 40 sculptures in the garden, plus rotating installations.

Speaking of which, let’s take a take a look!

A Photo Tour of the Minneapolis Sculpture Graden

If you enter from the direction of the Walker Art Museum, you’ll first see a beautiful tree lined walkway that frames the spoon:

minneapolis sculpture garden photo tour

On either sides of this sidewalk are sculptures bordered by hedges. This is a throwback to the original sculpture garden design.

walker sculpture garden photo tour

Just after the sidewalk, the Spoon sits in a relaxing open field.

spoonbridge and cherry location

Just past the Spoon lies the large pollinator garden:

minneapolis sculpture garden - pollinator garden

A series of walkways leads you through this field and to many different sculptures:

walker sculpture garden 2

minneapolis big blue cock statue

There’s over 40 sculptures to see, so take your time exploring!

sculpture garden tour 3

The area is one big loop, and you’ll eventually end where you started.

If you choose to take one of the outside sidewalks back to the Walker Art Museum, you’ll catch a few last interesting views of the Spoon before you leave!

minneapolis sculpture garden photo tour 4

Frequently Asked Questions:

Lastly, here’s our answers to some of the sculpture garden’s most common questions:

Is the Walker Sculpture Garden free?

Yes! The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is free! You do not need tickets to enter the garden. You can simply walk into the garden and start exploring any time between 6 am to Midnight, 7 days a week!

(The nearby indoor Walker Art Museum; however, costs about $15 per person.)

Can you walk on the Spoonbridge?

No. Back in the day, people used to climb on the Cherry Spoonbridge. However, after recent redesigns of the park, the museum erected a small fence in order to keep people off the spoon.

In our opinion, that’s for the best. The sculpture is much more enjoyable when it’s not being used as a jungle gym. Plus, you don’t want to fall into that pond, anyway.

If you just gotta grab something, the park does include a few other interactive sculptures that you’re allowed to swing on.

Are dogs allowed at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden?

Yes! The Minneapolis Sculpture garden allows dogs throughout the entire grounds.

Just make sure to keep them leashed, and don’t forget to pick up their waste.

The City Pup approves!

are dogs allowed at the minneapolis sculpture garden

What’s the parking situation like?

Pretty easy going. You can find plenty of pay parking in the garage near the museum. There’s also a dedicated pay lot for the gardens. If you’re lucky, you might find a free or metered spot on the street.

And if all else fails, you could always park elsewhere and take a casual stroll to the park. (There’s a neat pedestrian bridge that connects the gardens to Loring Park in Downtown Minneapolis.)

Is the Walker Sculpture Garden the largest sculpture garden in the world?

No, this is actually an urban legend. As awesome as Minneapolis’s sculpture garden is, it’s not the biggest.

The largest sculpture garden is likely Brookgreen Gardens near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. That 9,100 acre property includes 1,445 sculptures, plus the Lowcountry Zoo, multiple hiking trails, and a dedicated Wildlife Preserve.

By comparison, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and the Walker Art Campus are located on 19 acres. The sculpture garden includes 40 permanent art installations and many more temporary rotating pieces.

This still makes the Walker Sculpture Garden one of the largest sculpture gardens in the country. Plus, the actual sculptures in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden are, on average, MUCH bigger than Brookgreen Gardens and many other urban sculpture gardens.

So then, is the Cherry Spoonbridge the largest urban sculpture in the US?

No, unfortunately this is another urban legend. The largest urban sculpture in the U.S. would be the Statue of Liberty. Duh!

What about mini golf?

Every summer, the Walker Art Center installs artist-designed mini golf in the sculpture gardens. Simply put, it’s awesome, which is why it made our coveted list of the best mini golf in the Twin Cities. (Check out that list for some other amazing artist mini golf that is open year-round!)

All in all, is the Minneapolis Sculpture Gardens worth a visit?

Yes, absolutely! 🙂

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