Walking up a grand sandstone staircase to the Bakken Museum's green roof, visitors on Friday were greeted with the sounds of whining power drills and churning bicycle gears. To some, it might have seemed a cacophony, but to Kelly Finnerty, it was the sound of art at work.
Scattered around the roof were five groups of artists assembling, tweaking, and showing off interactive creations to visitors, part of a temporary "green energy art garden" set up as part of the museum's 10 Best Days of the Bakken festival.
"There's a lot of experimentation going on," said Finnerty, the museum's Deputy Director for Programs. "We encouraged artists to take risks as a way to show that artists and scientists actually have a lot in common."
The art garden's residents were all directed to create interactive projects for the event. They appeared to take that direction so seriously that they were constantly tweaking their creations based on feedback from the many kids who'd streamed by yesterday afternoon. Others were conceived more like sandboxes where visitors could explore art and green energy all at once.
"I'm already finding I've got to re-attach some buttons more firmly," artist John Vance said, standing next to a pair of bicycle-powered synthesizers. "I wish I could add a third bicycle, too, for even smaller kids."
In front of each bicycle sat panels controlling ten "voices" that riders could manipulate with effects pedals and volume controls. But there's a catch—each bike only controls five of these parts, forcing riders to work together to make a piece of music. The setup has turned out to be very free form, Vance said.
"So far, kids want to jump on and start pressing buttons like crazy," he said. "There's absolutely no reservation."
The garden was funded by a grant from the Minnesota Arts, Land, and Legacy constitutional amendment, Finnerty explained. The grant asked the Bakken and its partner artists to go above and beyond what we typically think of as "art."
"It couldn't be 'just a sculpture,'" Finnerty said. "We wanted to inspire people with the possibilities of green energy."