Aaron Culey, Shanice Jackson-Ellison, Cassandra Rebman, Kristina Johnson
Aaron Culey, Shanice Jackson-Ellison, Cassandra Rebman, Kristina Johnson

Everyone knows about the Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Center. Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen's Spoonbridge and Cherry is a Minneapolis icon.

But did you know that MCAD is home to its very own sculpture garden as well? What makes the MCAD Sculpture Garden so distinctive is that it is always evolving. At any one time it has several treasures on loan from alumni as well as former professors. The most popular, and a personal favorite of mine, is In the Room by Kelly Ludeking '97, a giant rusty elephant that faces 26th Street.

While these long-term loans are incredible on their own, some new works installed in late spring of 2015 have livened the place up. In The Public Art/Art in Public Places, a class offered every other semester, students work with professor Brad Jirka to create a sculpture of their own to display in the garden.

I recently met up with some of the artists whose works are currently on view to get some insight on their sculptures and the experience of creating them.


Aaron Culey, Sculpture Major, Senior

Aaron Culey: In the class we had to learn how to work with a specific budget in a specific time period. For my piece most of the budget went into building its podium, whereas the content was completely free. I had just recently learned how harmful plastic pollution is to the environment and changed my concept mid-design to address the problem.

Plastic bottle caps are responsible for small animal deaths in and around the worlds oceans and waterways so my focus now as an artist is to remove as much of this litter from nature through my work. This was my first experiment with injection molding plastic and it worked great! Each fish comprises about twenty bottle caps worth of plastic.


Cassandra Rebman ’15, Fine Arts Studio

Cassandra Rebman: Generally speaking, this piece is meant to be emblematic of the moment when things don't work out; the iron, though rigid and strong, can shatter upon blunt force, comfort is not found in the pillow that is made from concrete, and the vena cava implant, though large enough to catch a giant clot is unable to reach the clot-like heart.

This piece was deliberated over and worked on over the course of four months and the iron was poured at Lunar Burn Studios in Chicago under the guidance of the artist who made In the Room (the giant elephant in the garden). The person who taught him how to cast iron, Michael Bigger, also has a piece in the garden in the permanent collection. Peace of Mind Is Brittle would not have been possible without the support and technical guidance of Kelly Ludeking ’97, Marshal Svendsen, Eric Stephenson, Don Myhre, and Brad Jirka.


Kristina Johnson, Fine Arts Studio Major, Junior

Kristina Johnson: This sculpture was created with intention to be a functioning bath. However, the piece needed time (the summer) to create a natural patina on the steel, so, technically, it's still a work of art in progress. I wanted there to be an element of surprise when one looks into the basin, so I kept the outside neutral tones.

As a painter, I was intimidated by the class assignments but because of the small class size I developed a great relationship with the 3D studio and felt very comfortable whenever I encountered a problem (which was often). It is essential for anyone who plans to apply for grants or calls for art to learn how to successfully present yourself and manage your time and money. Plus this is a great way to get your work into the world without a gallery or museum. I recommend the class to anyone!


Shanice Jackson Ellison, Sculpture Major, Senior

Shanice Jackson Ellison: I really approached the class thinking this could be how I make my money after I get out of MCAD. So I took it all very seriously and tried to be as professional as possible. In the end, I got stretched pretty thin and it was hard to focus on making a serious statement piece. So, I made sure to have fun on this last sculpture during those stressful hours of finals week.

The sculpture is meant to be a snare trap with the 'bait' being the idea of home, or the nest. However, as a home it dramatically fails and as it ages, it reveals itself as a dangerous thing to believe in.


Drew Jonell, Photography Major, Junior

Drew Jonell: "My piece is an ode to my triple-flip collision crash that took place my junior year of high school. The piece is stacked vertically to create a dominating presence over the viewer. The relatability of the piece to whoever passes by is high because we have all experienced some sort of auto accident/problem in the world today and with the addition of the photographic prints within the tires it confirms the aftermath and struggle that came after a traumatic event such as a collision.

This class was a very positive experience. Not just 3D/fine art/ sculpture majors should take this class—all majors should try to think in three dimensions and try to bring their work into the public and sculptural sense.



It was great getting to meet these fantastic artists and experience the garden in a whole new light. I learned a lot about their sculptures that I never would have known just from looking at their work, and they definitely inspired me to think about making public art.

The sculpture garden is a great place to go and incubate ideas, contemplate the world, or just sit and talk with friends. These artists have helped make the garden even more engaging and vibrant than ever, while at the same time getting their work out into the world. If there's a place besides MCAD's walls to display some great art, it would be MCAD's sculpture garden, and everyone should consider taking the public art class. It seems like a lot of fun and learning to me!


To see all of the exciting sculptures come visit the garden in person! But in the meantime, find out more about the sculpture garden and its generous donors online.