Wanted: artistic ideas for an ‘arts-immersive’ mini golf course

If you are an artist, engineer, architect, designer, maker, dreamer, student, hacker, you name it, Can Can Wonderland wants you to throw your ideas into the ring to help create an 18-hole “arts-immersive” mini golf course in a 19,000-plus- square-foot former can factory at 755 Prior Ave. N., just four blocks north of University Avenue.

The group will hold its last information session about its call for artists at noon Saturday, Feb. 7, at its Prior Avenue venue. Proposals are due March 1, with a planned opening of the course on Sept. 1.

The brainchild of Jennifer and Chris Pennington, Christi Atkinson and Rob Clapp, the project has been four years in the making. The group began as Blue Ox Mini Golf with plans to open a course at the old Schmitt Brewery site on West Seventh Street in St. Paul. After that project fell through, the group found the can factory, “an awesome space,” said Jennifer Pennington.

In its call for artists, Can Can Wonderland said they aren’t building just a mini golf course, they are “building a national treasure”—an “arts-immersive, fun venue that

exposes people to arts through play.” The goal is to create a “multi- purpose art space where we invite nonprofit arts organizations in to participate in puppet shows, dance, open mikes, slam poetry. Every time you come in it could be a very novel experience,” Pennington said. “Maybe you’ll hear great poetry, a ragtime band. “We plan to constantly be adding art. We are drawing influence from City Museum in St. Louis and Coney Island (in New York).”

Plans to create “a really fun accessible space” include having a small counter-service restaurant, Pennington said, and possibly a bar.

“We want to be a self-funded model where we can continuously provide paid opportunities for artists,” she said.

Three of the four principals in the endeavor have worked in the arts in the Twin Cities for a long time.

Pennington has worked in nonprofits for the last 18 years and just finished her master’s degree in public administration at Hamline University. She recently stepped down as board chair with Art Shanty Projects, a biannual month-long artist-driven temporary community that was housed on White Bear Lake last February.

Pennington’s husband, Chris, is a special education teacher in Minneapolis Public Schools, and “by night and in summer when he’s off school, he’s an artist,” Jennifer Pennington said. He founded the Minneapolis Soap Factory programs the Haunted Basement and the Ten Second Film Festival.

Atkinson worked in education at the Walker Art Center for 16 years (where she was involved with the Walker’s mini golf course next to the Sculpture Garden), was a program director at the Soap Factory and was the first executive director for the Kulture Klub Collaborative, a Minneapolis group that connects artists with homeless youth. Clapp is a real estate broker who

had been working with the three creatives, who found they “liked him so much we added him as a partner,” Pennington said. Clapp also has a background in food service, which Pennington said is a valuable asset to the project.

Can Can Wonderland will pay a $5,000 stipend for each selected design and build proposal or a $1,000 stipend for each selected design-only proposal, which would be built by Can Can’s team of artists.

To find out more, contact Atkinson at christi@cancanwonderland.com or call 612-871-2545. You can also find Can Can Wonderland on Facebook at facebook.com/cancanwonderland.

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