The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is an iconic piece of downtown. Since it opened in 1988, it has welcomed millions to enjoy its wide array of art.
But the popularity came with a price.
So MPRB and the Walker Art Center—as they’ve done since entering into their partnership overseeing the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden nearly 30 years ago—began work on a vision to revitalize this beloved space.
This year, the Sculpture Garden finished a major renovation that reshaped its landscaping, added new works of art and gave a fresh new feel to a beloved space. The results were immediate—the space has welcomed more than 500,000 visitors in the four months since it re-opened. Not only did it reaffirm Minneapolis’ position as a leader of art institutions, green spaces and cultural diversity, but it also continued to showcase how the Sculpture Garden is a shining example of public-private urban sculpture parks.
For that reason, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden was selected as this year’s 2025 Plan Impact Award winner. Each year, the mpls downtown council selects an individual, organization or initiative that significantly impacts The 2025 Plan and its initiatives. The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden’s renovation did just that.
Much of that is due to MPRB and Walker Art Center working together to bring this renovation to life.
“The first thing the Walker and Park Board did together to make the renovation a reality was to seek funds for the project from the State of Minnesota and we were fortunate to secure $8.5 million in public bonding support to fund the reconstruction,” they said. “In addition, the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization dedicated up to $1.5 million for stormwater management systems. The Walker also raised and spent millions of dollars to commission and purchase new works of art for the Garden.”
MPRB’s plans for the reconstructed Sculpture Garden, in partnership with the Walker Art Center, were designed by Osland & Associates—an award-winning landscape design firm in Minneapolis. Snow Kreilich architects also helped to transform the Cowles Conservatory into the Cowles Pavilion.
Several keys to the project included refreshing the look and the functionality of the space. The Sculpture Garden now takes advantage of the latest sustainability technologies and rainwater collection or reuse in the Garden. The renovation also allowed for the Walker Art Center to build on the nearly 60 artworks already in the Sculpture Garden and on the Walker campus through additional private investment.
“This project joins other major greening efforts in downtown Minneapolis that were central to the 2025 plan,” Miller and Viso said. “This plan was squarely focused on connectivity—the wealth of downtown’s diverse assets from the Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden to the Mississippi River. Indeed, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden provides a green western gateway to downtown Minneapolis. The Sculpture Garden also unites two of Minnesota’s most cherished resources—its parks and its cultural life—in a very special way that is recognized around the world.”
It all works together in helping one of downtown Minneapolis’ most iconic locations refresh for those who live, work, visit and explore here. It works hand-in-hand with the direction that downtown and its five neighborhoods have headed over the past several years.
“We believe downtown Minneapolis is unique in how it provides such a wide variety of places to work, live, and play,” they said. “It also says a lot a about this community that it can boast of having both world-class cultural amenities and an award-winning park system downtown. Residents and visitors to our city center have so many wonderful options on how to spend their time between the western and eastern gateways of the city.”
For both the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board and the Walker Art Center, The 2025 Plan represents an unprecented coming together of public and private partners, corporate and cultural/educational institutions, and city government to envision the city’s future together. That type of collaboration is represented in their relationship at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, which spans nearly three decades and counting.
“We were new leaders in the Twin Cities when we were invited to participate in the 2025 planning project,” Miller and Viso said. “This participation allowed us to meet so many cross-sector colleagues around town with whom we have continued to work and collaborate to realize the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Walker renovations. That planning effort fostered an important culture of trust and collaboration that has enabled many partners to leverage mutual investment and expertise for the betterment of downtown Minneapolis.”