Mini-golf sculpture gallery invites participation

Photo of a pillbottle golf hole with two capsules strewn about as obstacles.
Corryn Pettingill / The Mossy Log

Jess Perlitz’s art class creates challenging, playable course designed around theme of uncertain future

Miniature golf courses have become a unique form of artistic expression in the last decade. The Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis is home to a seasonal rooftop mini golf course for over a decade. A course is usually comprised of nine holes, each designed by a different artist often using the game to explore political and cultural themes. Kansas City, Missouri’s Neil-Atkins Museum of Art has followed suit
with their own “Big Art, Mini Golf” course. In the Portland neighborhood of Saint John’s, artist Mike Benett designed a fantasy, narrative-based course as a part of his immersive art project, Wonderwood. 

Inspired by these integrations of art and play, Assistant Professor of Studio Art and Head of Sculpture Jess Perlitz assigned her Sculpture 2/3 class to take on the challenge of creating a well-made, playable, sculpture course this semester. 

Sculpture students each brought their own interpretations of an uncertain future to their holes. The completed course was playable for the Lewis & Clark campus briefly the week before spring break. On sunny days, anyone could putt the course’s 11 holes outside of the Fields Center for the Arts. When Portland’s rainy side comes out, the course was relocated within gallery walls inside of Fields. 

A student in the class, Emilie Schaefer  ’25 looked to the past to explore an uncertain future for her structure. 

“I’m very interested in antiquity, and combining the game of mini golf with the structure of a temple was amusing to me,” Schaefer said. “It was a challenge to make, primarily the columns, which took extensive precision and hours of sanding to make them smooth and round. I wanted to create something that appears sleek, and clean, but behind the scenes, sawdust was absolutely everywhere.”

As Shaefer’s example illustrates, the final sculptures are deceptively simple. The 11 holes span many topics and materials, sparking a variety of conversations. Though the course may appear more ideological than game-based, it is not an easy game. Although the course has since been taken down, it will be available for play again in the Alumni Circle from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. during the Festival of Scholars and Artists on April 12. If you are up for the challenge, visit the Fields Center for the Arts to pick up a putter and play into an uncertain future.

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