Take Me to the River offers fresh opportunities to enjoy art and nature

Last week, I had a day off of work and wanted to do something fun with my son, spend some time outside, maybe see some art. Also, the dog needed a walk.   With luck, a solution presented itself in the form of the Franconia Sculpture Park, located just south of Hwy 8 on Hwy 95.

As we drove north to the park, I worried. Grey clouds hung overhead and sprinkles kept landing on the windshield. Shortly after we arrived, however, a warm sun emerged from the clouds and we were able to enjoy a playground fit for Dr. Seuss, mirrors reflecting a prairie in bloom, a shed that looked exactly like my dog, and a poetry installation by 2019 Open Studio Fellow Molly Valentine Dierks that reminded me an awful lot of my mind.

I Worried

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
Can I do it better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

By Mary Oliver

‘I Worried’ – an art installation by Molly Valentine Dierks includes street with lines from poet Mary Oliver.

There was something utterly perfect about reading Oliver’s words of wisdom while standing in a field of flowers with warm breeze on my back. The Pulitzer Prize winning poet was known for pieces that often focused on the “quiet occurances of nature: industrious hummingbirds, egrets, motionless ponds.” In her installation at Franconia, artist Dierks captures key phrases from one of Oliver’s most beloved poems on a series of brightly colored road signs that seem out of place amidst the natural beauty of the surroundings. It was a beautiful tribute to the poet, who died earlier this year at the age of 83.

Next month, ArtReach St. Croix will sponsor a series of events and activities across the St. Croix Valley as part of the annual Take Me to the River experience. Like Oliver and Dierks, many artists in the area are inspired by nature and especially the St. Croix River.  As such, scheduled events offer residents and visitors the opportunity to enjoy both art and nature in unique settings.

This year’s Take Me to the River will include four art festivals – Art on the Kinni (River Falls), Sept 7; Marine Art Fair, Sept 21-22; Afton Art in the Park, Sept 28-29; and Spirit of St. Croix Art Festival (Hudson), Sept 28-29 – as well as the Prairie Burn Music Festival (YMCA Camp St. Croix in Hudson) on Sept. 14 and Franconia Sculpture Park’s “Art & Artists Celebration” on Sept. 28.

The 18th annual Washington County Bluegrass Festival is not included in the official lineup but is also a popular family-friendly event scheduled for Saturday, Sept 7 from 2-6pm at Lake Elmo Park Reserve. Enjoy music in a beautiful natural setting amidst 2,165 acres of woods and prairie with a campground, multiple playground and picnic areas, walking trails, and boat access to Lake Elmo.

Lake Elmo Regional Park
Lake Elmo Park Reserve is the setting for the 18th Annual Washington County Bluegrass Festival on Sept. 7, 2019.


To see the full schedule of activities for Take Me to the River, go to: www.takemetotheriver.info

To learn more about Franconia Sculpture Park, go to: www.franconia.org