Photo Credit: Franconia’s vibrant prairie in summer.
Sculpture in background: “Solar Tree” by 2015 FSP/Jerome Fellow Asia Ward
Shafer, Minnesota: Franconia Sculpture Park is becoming a sanctuary for many things this season – bees, butterflies, and now people. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Franconia has quickly become a refuge as people find ways to be #alonetogether while enjoying art, nature, and the fresh air.
Franconia Sculpture Park is celebrating the symbiotic relationship between art and nature in 2020. As part of this initiative, the park is working with local ecologists, apiaries and farmers in the St. Croix Valley to create engaging programs that focus on the importance of pollinators, which are vital to creating and maintaining the habitats and ecosystems that many animals rely on for food and shelter.
This spring, Franconia is dedicating specific areas of the park to establish butterfly and bee sanctuaries while hosting accompanying educational programs for the community on housing pollinators and beekeeping. Franconia is connecting ecologists with teaching artists to create unique curricula that educates visitors to Franconia about the art and the flora and fauna that occupy this space.
While working on launching these initiatives, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the offices and public programs the park was developing for the spring. Franconia was committed to remaining open to the public as an oasis not just for the plants, insects and animals, but also to our many visitors during this difficult time as long as we felt it was safe to do so. By educating the public on maintaining at least six feet of distance from each other and refraining from climbing on or touching the sculptures during this time, Franconia was able to be one of the only arts organizations that remained open during COVID-19.
Franconia heard from so many visitors and families about how thankful they were that Franconia was able to provide an essential social service to our community by staying open for people to roam Franconia’s 43-acres while enjoying the art and fresh air. While Franconia encouraged people to #stayathome, if people must venture out and go for a walk, Franconia was there as a sanctuary, a safe haven, and much-needed respite from cabin fever.
During this time of social distancing, Franconia also launched a series of free online programs, including hosting our longstanding “Dinner & Discussion” series as an online-only format, and launching semi-weekly “deep dives” with sculptures in the park with Franconia’s Executive Director & Chief Curator on Mondays and Thursdays at 12:30CST as Facebook and Instagram livestreams. These talks gave visitors near and far a glimpse into the park, allowing people to virtually visit Franconia and eliminate any physical or social barriers. These fun, inspiring, and educational programs expanded Franconia’s reach to new audiences that might not otherwise be able to visit Minnesota.
Franconia wishes to remind visitors that Minnesota’s Stay at Home order is still in effect, and our offices will remain closed to the public until further notice. Please do not visit Franconia if you are exhibiting symptoms, and please follow the CDC’s guidelines before visiting the park. We encourage you to visit our homepage for any updates or to make a donation that allows us to remain open during this difficult time.
About Franconia Sculpture Park
Franconia Sculpture Park is the pre-eminent, artist-centered sculpture park in the Midwest. Founded in 1996, Franconia provides physically and intellectually wide-open spaces that inspire new ways of thinking through access to contemporary sculpture, installation and land art. Located in the scenic St. Croix River Valley, Franconia operates a 43-acre outdoor museum, active artist residency program, and a depth and breadth of arts programming for a diverse and engaged public.
Franconia is located at 29836 St. Croix Trail in Shafer, Minnesota, and is free and open to the public 365 days a year from dawn to the dusk.