Fine Art in the Farmland

Website Franconia

Image by Aaron Davidson

Franconia Sculpture Park initiates visitors into the world of fine art without the hushed tones and do-not-touch signs of traditional museums. Growler magazine. June 2016.

Rolling farmland and patches of trees dominate the last leg of the drive north on Highway 95 as you approach Schafer, Minnesota, a town of just over 1,000 people.Then, suddenly, the trees grow thin and open into a clearing of land, revealing a giant circular structure rising 40 feet toward the sky. This isn’t just farmland. This soil grows art.

Some 120 structures of steel, wood, and fiberglass cover the 43 acres of Franconia Sculpture Park, each with a story to tell. The keeper of the tales is John Hock, Franconia’s CEO, artistic director, and one of the park’s founders.

Twenty years ago John was a sculptor living and working in New York. Every August he visited Minnesota with a friend. But in 1995 he didn’t return to New York. Instead, he chose to stay in rural Minnesota and build a new kind of sculpture park—one where artists lived, worked, and exhibited all in the same space. “It was taking all my best experiences and putting them together to come up with one,” John says.

Jumping into a golf cart, cigar in hand, John cruises the dirt paths of his park. He is a man in perpetual motion—until he spots a fence in need of fixing. Wire mesh dangles off the side of a wooden pole, in front of a sculpture. He stops the cart, hops off, and flips open his cell phone, summoning someone on staff to come remedy the issue. Then, just as quickly, he climbs back into the driver’s seat and motors on. Read more