Lovin' a Spoonful

Sunday, September 02, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Highways and Byways, Day 19:  Minneapolis, MN

Being enthusiastic fans of Claes Oldenburg and his oversize renditions of ordinary objects, our first stop today had to be the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.  Though we don't always remember to look for his works in the areas we are visiting, the Spoonbridge and Cherry fountain-sculpture is such a Minneapolis icon we couldn't miss it.

Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen
Commissioned especially for this central spot in the sculpture garden, the spoon is 52 feet long, spanning a pond, and the cherry weighs a whopping 1,200 pounds.  Because of its size, the sculpture had to be fabricated at two New England shipyards.  Though most photos depict the cherry a bright red, its color seems to have faded.  We found it to be the deep maroon color of a very ripe Bing cherry.  The cherry's stem houses a fountain that sprays a fine mist into the air while nozzles at the stem's base keep the cherry slickly coated with water. 

Inside the sculpture garden's conservatory is another larger than life creation, Standing Glass Fish by Frank Gehry, installed in 1986.  When the artist was a child, his grandmother would bring home a large carp each Thursday evening to make gefilte fish for Friday night dinner.  To keep the fish fresh, she filled the bathtub with water and allowed Gehry to watch over the fish while it writhed and jumped in its attempts to escape this odd confinement.  Memories of these moments have inspired Gehry to incorporate images of carps into a variety of works including this one, a 22-ft high glass and steel sculpture that appears to be dancing out of the water of a shallow black reflective pond in a room surrounded by palms.  Plate glass scales reveal the wood and steel skeleton within.  The artist-architect likes the patterns made by fish scales and the fluid movement of fish in water so much he has even designed buildings shaped like fish.

At the opposite end of the sculpture garden is the Alene Grossman Memorial Arbor.  The entire 300-foot length of the vine-covered stainless steel arbor is lined with colorful plantings of perennial and annual flowers, creating a contemplative corner where visitors can quite literally stop to smell the flowers.

Sculpture Garden Arbor
From the sculpture garden, we drove to Guthrie Theater to purchase tickets for the matinee performance of Trick Boxing, a play written and performed by a local couple.  After visiting the box office, we had just enough time for a delicious lunch at Spoonriver Restaurant, another wonderful locavore discovery which was conveniently next door to the theater.  We both found our meals to be perfectly prepared from fresh ingredients and very flavorful.

Spoonriver Restaurant
Trick Boxing told the story of a Depression-era mobster who recruits a hapless new immigrant as a prizefighting patsy.  In an unexpected turn, his new-found girlfriend, a dancer, teaches him some fancy footwork and he ends up defeating the champion.  The performance lasted an hour and a half with no intermission and taught us a valuable lesson:  never rely on just one review.  Let's just say that was a long 75 minutes.

Trick Boxing scene (photo from Minnesota Star Tribune)
After the play, we explored the area around the theater a bit.  It is located on the Mississippi River in the old mill district.  This part of Minneapolis was once a thriving industrial section.  The power of nearby Falls of St. Anthony was first harnessed in the 1820s to run a gristmill and a sawmill.  In later years, numerous flour mills lined the river bank.  At the height of its milling activity, Minneapolis was the flour milling capital of the world.

Mill City Museum
As fossil fuels began to replace water to generate power for the mills, the city's importance in the industry declined and by the 1960s many of the old mills lay vacant.  Thanks to a city redevelopment plan, today former mills have been converted to condos, offices and museums.  The entire area has seen a resurgence of residential and pedestrian activity, aided by pedestrian and bicycle-friendly trails along the river.  The pristine cleanliness of the mill area certainly belies its industrial past.

Pedestrian and bicycle traffic on the Arch Bridge
After exploring the delightful downtown area for a while, finding a letterbox along the way, we headed back to our hotel in suburbia, but not before visiting one last Minneapolis landmark.  "Who can turn the world on with her smile?"  This musical question was asked each week as the Mary Tyler Moore Show came on the air and we all watched Mary toss her hat in the air in her adopted city of Minneapolis.  Years later, TVLand, which was airing the show, erected a monument to this memorable chapter of television history.

Who can turn the world on with her smile?
Presumably on the same spot where Mary executed that tam toss in the opening credits, a sculpture of her in the act of throwing was erected on Nicollet Mall, a street in downtown Minneapolis.  And with that bit of TV history, we called it a day in Minneapolis and headed back to our hotel in the 'burbs, where one last surprise awaited us.

As we exited our car at the hotel, who should be walking to a vehicle parked two spaces away but TLC's latest reality TV stars?  No, we are not talking about Honey Boo Boo and Sugar Bear.  It was none other than Abigail and Brittany Hensel, the conjoined twins who star in Abby & Brittany and who live in the Minneapolis area. We spoke to them ("Hey!  Aren't you guys on TV?") and wished them well with their new TV show.  They were very polite and gracious but obviously on their way somewhere and not inclined to stop to chat, so we went our separate ways, flushed with our tiny brush with stardom.  No doubt they'll mention an encounter with a nice couple from Georgia on a future show.  

 More Photos from Today
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
Guthrie Theater
Back side of Mil City Museum built on the ruins of old Gold Medal flour mill
Merriam Street Bridge
Mississippi River Lock and Dam No. 1
Stone Arch Bridge, Minneapolis
Downtown Condos, Minneapolis
Downtown Condos, Minneapolis