Sculpture garden for scamps


Ever had the urge to touch artwork at a museum? Well, here’s a place for you rule breakers who always get hassled by museum security officers — Franconia Sculpture Park, located 45 minutes northeast of the Twin Cities in Chisago Country.

This 20-acre park, open 365 days a year to the public, offers a wide amount of artwork to touch, but also walk on and sit on.

Franconia Sculpture Park
The next time you’re bored and have no clue what to do, head over to Franconia Sculpture Park.

You’ll go bonkers when you get there, you have my word on it! — Sabrina

Address: 29836 St. Croix Trail, Fraconia, Minn. 55074.

Cost: Free

Hours: Open 365 days a year, dawn to dusk.

For more info: Visit Facebook,, its website,, or call (651) 257-6668.

Artworks include a life-sized, multi-colored wooden play set, a long, green polka-dotted lizard, a wind turbine that looks as if it were meant for Mars, a couch garden, and much more.

And all of these amazing artworks can be seen for free.

“Each of those artists has a different source of inspiration for their work. Some work is personal, some political, some conceptual, some work is solely about materials, some about process and some are about public interaction,” said Cassia Samaniego, education program coordinator at the park.

“Each time you visit Franconia, you will have a new experience because the artists’ work is constantly developing and new sculptures are being installed all the time,” Samaniego said.

Franconia has about 95 total art pieces on display at a given time, which change depending on which artists are in-residence at the park.

One new piece, “Got the Power: Minnesota” (pictured, below) is a tower of boomboxes that plays the “Minnesota Mixtape,” a recording of suggested songs and recorded memories that say something about life in the land of 10,000 lakes, and acts as an audio portrait of the state, according to the park’s website.

New York City artist Bayeté Ross Smith, who is currently competing on Bravo’s Work of Art show, created the piece.

Sculptor and educator John Hock had the vision to create the sculpture park because he had a “mission to foster an inspiring environment for artists to expand their skills and promote the public education of three-dimensional art,” said Samaniego.

“We host 40 artists a year to make work … When those artists are in residence and make a piece, it goes on exhibition,” said Thomas Vannatter, a development associate at the park.

Franconia pushes the envelope even further by allowing guests to see first-hand new art sculptures being worked on by national and international artists, such a political statue showing the effects of dictatorship in North Korea.

What makes the sculptures even more intriguing are the artists’ backgrounds. “Our artists are literally from around the country and beyond. Currently we have four intern artists who are from England, Canada, Maryland and Minnesota. We put an emphasis on artistic excellence, ambition and diversity,” Samaniego said.

Franconia also offers programs and events for all ages including a 3-D Concert Series, Kids Make Sculpture Workshops, Community Collaboration Hot Metal Pour, artist-led tours, the Fall Annual Art & Artists Celebration, and specific programs for at-risk youth.

Left: “Dear Leader” by Chang-Jin Lee of New York City. “… an exploration of the relationship between ancient Confucian tradition and modern Communist rule in North Korean society.” — Lee’s artist statement

This is ThreeSixty’s first article in a year-long series on low-budget fun ideas for teens in the Twin Cities.