Art-inspired Playground opens at Western Sculpture Park

A new art-inspired playground opened this fall at Western Sculpture Park. The park is in the Rondo neighborhood, off Marion Street next to the Aurora and Fuller apartment complexes, and across the street from the Hanover townhomes and the old Sears parking lot.

Public Art St. Paul maintains several large sculptures and art installations throughout Western Sculpture Park, some of which the nonprofit owns and some of which are on loan from artists. The city and nonprofit have collaborated on the city-owned park since 1998.

When it came time to replace the sparse and forlorn playground, Public Art St. Paul and St. Paul Parks and Recreation collaborated on a community-engagement process that brought neighborhood youth together with artist Bianca Pettis, City Artist Aaron Dysart — who is embedded in city departments through funding provided by Public Art St. Paul — and city landscape architect/project manager Bianca Paz. The stuffed bird Pettis brought to one gathering got a lot of play from the children, and the finished playground includes three large sculptures of birds at play and round mosaic benches featuring Pettis’ bird designs. The mosaic project was overseen by Lori Greene of the Midway store Mosaic on a Stick.

The sizable playground also includes a large climbing dome, at least nine distinct children’s structures and play areas, a sand lot, and bicycle parking.

The adjacent apartments are home to many immigrants and refugees from Mexico, Somalia and other African nations, and Southeast Asia.

Funding for the new playground was provided by the city’s Community Development Block Grant program, the National Recreation and Park Association’s “Connecting Communities Through Outdoor Play” grant program, Target and the Knight Foundation.