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Finding Minnesota: Big Stone Mini Golf

MINNETRISTA, Minn. (WCCO) -- Most owners of valuable art collections might be nervous about having children play around them -- not to mention, children with golf clubs.

But the artist who created Big Stone Mini Golf and Sculpture Garden encourages people of all ages to come out and play.

Bruce Stillman, 53, has been mixing art with physics for more than 30 years. His stainless-steel sculptures soar toward the sky and roll in the wind.

"You just give them a little push," Stillman said, "and they'll move for half an hour."

For the past several years, Stillman has also been mixing art with recreation. He's created what has to be one of the most imaginative courses in the country.

You won't find any Dutch windmills there, but you will come across a giant insect, for example, not far from a pumpkin patch made of granite and steel.

"Each one I make, I'd like to have it have its own little ambiance," he said, "and take you away from everything else for a moment."

He tucked hole No. 7 inside a flipped over Chris Craft boat, drilled with big holes. And to fill those holes, he recycled eyeglass lenses, adding various colors.

"So it almost looks like a cathedral with stained glass windows," Stillman said. "We ended up calling it Holy Ship."

It's certainly unique.

"I think there's nothing like it in the United States," said artist Heidi Hoy.

Hoy teaches bronze casting at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts. She helped Stillman get the project going, and has some of her own work on display throughout the grounds. She says Big Stone's pastoral setting has helped inspire her.

"There's something about the land and the artwork and the animals that create that closeness to the elements," she said.

Stillman has goats, chickens and horses for visitors to enjoy, in the midst of his artwork.

He says this is exactly where he wants to be, at this stage of his career.

"And I don't even care that much about selling the work now," he said, "because I kind of saved up my money from those days and just want to keep developing these new ideas and challenging. It's kind of fun."

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