If you could design your own mini-golf course, what would it look what? What materials would you use, how would you build it? These questions are at the heart of Can Can Wonderland, an artist-designed 18-hole mini-golf course and entertainment center located in the Hamline Midway neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota. Inspired by places like the City Museum in St. Louis and Chicago’s Par King, the founders of Can Can converted a 20,000 square foot former can factory into an art-infused amusement park filled with vintage arcade games, a box fort, and numerous installations and murals.
About five years ago when the project was first getting started, its creators sent out an open call to artists to design their own mini-golf holes. Their inbox quickly flooded with sketches, drawings, and design plans from predominantly local artists as well as a few schools in the area. The Can Can team selected their favorite 18, and paid each team or artist for their concept. Of the selected, some built their holes, while Can Can found people to build others'. Each attraction was assembled by a crew of artists and craftspeople ranging from professional to amateur.
Needless to say this isn't your run-of-the-mill course. One hole involves bouncing your golf ball off a drum set, while another has you hit it off a tee with a baseball bat. Inside their giant pink and fluffy Mastodon hole, a bartender sits making drinks and serving them out of a trap door located on the sculpture’s hip. The Can Can team is currently working on the 18th hole which, at whopping 205' long, may or may not be the longest mini-golf hole in the country. The hole has also been fixed with a ball tracking system that triggers entrancing light patterns when the ball has gone the length of the green.
Can Can Wonderland is also the first arts-based public benefit corporation in Minnesota. This means their social aspirations to be an economic engine for the arts has equal weight with their for-profit business operations. Jennifer Pennington, one of the founding members of the park writes, “we provide ongoing paid opportunities for artists of many different mediums and skill levels and we grow new audiences for the arts by engaging them in full, playful participatory art activities as well as providing an arts-immersive environment.” The park is constantly getting updated and hosting performances and events that provide steady paid work for artist.
In addition to the games and golf course, Can Can Wonderland has an extensive collection of graffiti murals and installations scattered across the park. Their multipurpose art space has two stages where they host regional and local performers of almost every kind. If you get hungry, the park also has a restaurant, cereal bar, and an ice cream parlor. When it gets late, the park turns into a 21+ amusement park for adults with craft cocktails and beer.