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Great American Teach-Off Finalist's Next Project: A Mini Golf Art Space Great American Teach-Off Finalist's Next Project: A Mini Golf Art Space

Great American Teach-Off Finalist's Next Project: A Mini Golf Art Space

by Christopher Pennington
July 16, 2013

As an educator, I am always looking for ways to expose people to new ideas and new experiences, while broadening my own cultural horizons. As such, the idea for combining the popular recreation of mini golf with a variety of artistic media seemed like a natural fit, and is something I have been working with for a long time.

I'm taking art out of the galleries and museums (places I love, but which can be intimidating or otherwise off-putting), and putting it in a playable environment with the combined goals of having fun and interacting with art. Blue Ox Mini Golf brings together my passions for developing community, bringing more art to the public, and creating memorable experiences.

Mini golf has been a favorite pastime of mine since my childhood in Madison, Wisconsin, home to Vitense Golfland, a unique and eclectic mini golf course that captures the fun and vibrancy of the sport in its heyday. Vitense was a place that people from around the city came to relax, have fun, and enjoy playing in a one-of-a-kind space together.

I have been involved in the arts since very early in my life. I have been a musician, writer, visual artist, and I have also enjoyed putting together large-scale projects, such as the Soap Factory’s Haunted Basement and Ten Second Film Festival, both of which I conceived and executed with friends and local artists. It has always been my belief that art is where you find it, and that art has the ability to bring people together in new and interesting ways. My past projects have done that, and Blue Ox presents a new opportunity to continue that work on a larger scale, potentially reaching many more people.

I have lived in the West Seventh/Fort Road neighborhood for a few years, and I think it is one of the truly great parts of the Twin Cities. The community vibe is very strong here, and the Schmidt Brewery, which is the site of the Blue Ox mini golf course, provides such a great natural focal point for the area, with its impressive gothic ramparts rising up from the banks of the Mississippi River. This is a diverse neighborhood filled with all sorts of creative and wonderful people, and I think Blue Ox can become a gathering point for my community, and also draw in visitors from around the metro area, and the larger region.

It has been a couple months since ArtPlace America announced that we received a $350,000 grant to build our course, and we have been playing the role of mini golf ambassadors all around town. We have been learning a lot about esoteric things like zoning codes, negotiating land deals and hunting down angel investors. We find ourselves hanging around city hall and texting with our councilman. It isn’t what we envisioned upon hatching our plan, but it has certainly become our reality. It has been a steep learning curve, and we are figuring out a lot of new things all the time.

By recontextualizing both the arts experience and the recreational sport of mini golf, it is my hope that Blue Ox will bring out, enhance, and build vibrancy in the neighborhood and in Saint Paul more broadly. This project represents the culmination of several lifelong dreams all in one spot, and everyone on the Blue Ox team is excited beyond words to have the opportunity to bring our passions and vision to our community.


 
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