As the pandemic continues apace, we continue to seek out lesser-trafficked foot trails. One of our recent faves — suggested to us by three awesome followers — is the 60-acre Caponi Art Park in Eagan.
Artist, environmentalist, and Macalester College educator Anthony Caponi conceived the public park in the 1950s as a “natural studio and gallery” for his sculpture work. He spent six decades working on the project until his passing in 2015, at age 94. His wife, Cheryl Caponi, now serves as the executive director of the nonprofit, welcoming 18,000 visitors a year.
The park features a mix of Caponi’s art as well as pieces by sculptors Korrin Lohmann and David Culver. The sculptures are integrated along miles of meandering trails, which are so lush and green in summertime, taking a hike here is like wandering through a rainforest. There are several scenic overlooks, plus picnic tables and a forested labyrinth for contemplative meditation.
Caponi’s works are made of welded steel, rebar, granite, limestone, fieldstone, cast aluminum, reinforced concrete, and more unusual materials like saw blades, rusted railroad spikes, and recycled chrome parts from a 1960s Cadillac. The two that stood out to us the most are both near the entrance: One is a harrowing relief sculpture depicting the human suffering after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius; the other is a Tim Burton-esque rattlesnake-anaconda hybrid shaped from poured concrete.
Performances at the park’s Theater in the Woods have been postponed due to the virus, but the walking trails all remain open. Dogs are welcome, so long as they’re leashed; kids, too — just keep ’em off the artwork. The park continues to host guided tours on Saturday afternoons and a series of Yoga in the Park sessions, scheduled next for July 11, 18, and 25, and August 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29. The park is free to visit but donations are encouraged.
Caponi Art Park
1220 Diffley Rd., Eagan, MN; 651-454-9412.