Caponi Art Park Unveils New Art Experience

by | Jun 2024

Use your phone to download an app and scan a QR code to discover Marlena Myles’ Wodakota Walk art installation at Caponi Art Park.

Use your phone to download an app and scan a QR code to discover Marlena Myles’ Wodakota Walk art installation at Caponi Art Park. Photos: Chris Emeott

Marlena Myles’s augmented reality installation creates a new way to experience Caponi Art Park in Eagan.

Art lovers who visit Caponi Art Park this summer will find a new art experience on the cutting edge: an augmented reality installation by Spirit Lake Dakota artist Marlena Myles.

Myles’s Wodakota Walk is a web-based—instead of physical—exhibit with five sites around the park, and visitors access the work via a free app on their smartphones. Myles’s images appear on the screen, hovering over the real landscape. Wodakota means “harmony and peace with all in the universe” in the Dakota language.

Caponi Art Park has been an institution in Eagan since it opened to the public in 1987. It was the legacy of late sculptor Anthony Caponi who wanted to blend art and nature on the 60-acre property. “We felt this land was too beautiful to be just another housing development,” says co-founder and executive director Cheryl Caponi. “We commissioned ourselves to make a park out of it. The sculptures work with the topography, making everything enhanced, rather than imposing the human will on the landscape.”

Over the years, Caponi Art Park has welcomed many artists in residence and featured permanent and ephemeral installations from a variety of artists and performers. A couple of years ago, Cheryl visited Myles’s Dakota Spirit Walk, an augmented reality public art installation at the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary in St. Paul. “I thought the technology behind it was interesting, and Marlena’s work was just so exciting,” Cheryl says. She reached out to Myles about doing a similar project at the art park.

Myles thought the landscape at the park would be a great fit. “I looked at the locations [around the park] that would be in conversation with the augmented reality installations,” Myles says. “The Grandfather Stone piece is in a circle clearing, surrounded by other stone works. The Watchful Butterfly is near the pollinator plantings. The Star Knowledge is the highest point, where guests can see the skyline of Minneapolis and the blue skies.”

That connection—of art and landscape—is at the heart of Caponi Art Park’s mission. The park “has long been promoting environmental stewardship,” says Kelly Mroczek, communications and development associate at the park. “We now call it ‘creative placemaking.’”

Wodakota Walk art installation sign at Caponi Art Park

“The intention is to make an immersive experience that’s more meaningful than just art or nature by itself,” says Cheryl. “The artworks are integrated into the landscape.” She felt it was valuable to bring the perspective of a Native artist like Myles to the park. The website describes Wodakota Walk as a “bridge to Indigenous values and lessons based on Dakota understandings,” intended to help reveal to each viewer their kinship with the environment—plants, animals and the natural cycles of the Earth.

Myles says, “I hope visitors walk away thinking about the gifts they’re born with and how they can use them to protect life—creating harmony (Wodakota) within the world and communities around us.”

When the installation opened last fall, the park hosted a celebration, featuring other Native artists and performers. “It was a joy bringing the Native community to celebrate their talents,” Myles says. “The folks at Caponi were on the same wavelength, and it was a great experience the entire way.”

Caponi Art Park
1220 Diffley Road, Eagan; 651.454.9412
Open 9 a.m.–8 p.m. Tuesday–Sunday, May through September.
Facebook: Caponi Art Park
Instagram: @caponiartpark


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