Park Board approves Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Cowles Conservatory concept

A rendering of the renovated Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden shows a completely redone landscape and infrastructure changes. Credit:

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board approved the concept of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Cowles Conservatory reconstruction.

The $10 million project to address infrastructure issues and costly maintenance is part of a $75 million overhaul of the Walker Art Center campus.

“We have an opportunity now to bring the garden up for another generation,” said Olga Viso, Walker Art Center executive director, to the board at the April 15 meeting. “I think the same spirit of collaboration and exchange and working together that helped to create it in the first place is happening today.”

The board’s approved concept of the conservatory would turn it into an open, unheated pavilion for wine, beer, coffee or tea concessions, permitted events and park sponsored events.  The project also includes a new building for public restrooms, garden orientation and MPRB operations.

Much like earlier concepts of the sculpture garden reconstruction, the approved plan includes a natural meadow on the garden’s north section for stormwater drainage. Boardwalks would connect several circular grass lawns.

The sculpture garden and conservatory were operating at a nearly $258,000 loss in 2013, but the project would shrink the number down to about $50,000. Under the reconstruction, the projected expenses of the garden and conservatory would increase from just under $300,000 to about $340,000, but revenue is projected to increase seven-fold to approximately $290,000 due to seasonal food vending, concessions and sponsored events. 

Along with the campus overhaul, Viso said the center will also commission 8 to 10 new, large-scale works for the sculpture garden.

Construction is projected to being in October this year and end in May 2017, during which the garden will be closed. The center will begin to remove sculptures in August, but many will be on loan to various venues, such as the Weisman Art Museum, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Gold Medal Park.