Miniature golf at a museum? It’s been a big hit at the Nelson-Atkins

Since its opening on Memorial Day, Art Course has sold out each weekend, a museum representative said.
Since its opening on Memorial Day, Art Course has sold out each weekend, a museum representative said. Courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Dawn Papineau and Maureen Gallagher, teachers from Overland Park, went to The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art recently to gaze at the paintings and sculptures and maybe walk around the lawn.

What they didn’t plan to do was play miniature golf.

The Nelson lawn — with its iconic giant shuttlecocks and the current “Walking Wall” exhibit — attracts wanderers during warm weather, but the miniature golf course, called Art Course, draws a new sort of attention. For a fee, visitors can grab a colorful putter and golf ball and play nine holes inspired by the museum’s art.

The course sits between two rows of trees, which provides some shade from the heat. Small globe lights hang from the branches.

Young couples, friends and families with kids tried the course on the day Papineau and Gallagher visited.

A frustrated “no!” could be heard after a child missed a shot. An impressed “wow” came from a woman marveling at the designs.

“It was really a lot of fun,” Gallagher said after finishing the course.

Ticket sales for Art Course have been doing well, selling out every weekend since the opening on Memorial Day, museum representative Casey Claps said. Tickets are $14 for adults, $11 for adult museum members and $9 for kids ages 4 to 12. They can be ordered online or at the museum.

The course is open during the museum’s normal hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday. It will be open until Labor Day.

Claps said the museum created the course because it was a fun way to get others to the museum and experience art. The designs were based on public submissions from local artists of all ages.

“There are so many ways you can make someone interested in art,” Claps said.

One hole, called “Zoomy,” features orange-red platforms and was inspired by Mark di Suvero’s statue “Rumi,” which sits outside the museum. Another, called “Jawbreaker Machine,” features a painted gumball machine similar to Wayne Thiebaud’s 1963 painting by the same name.

Each of the course’s nine holes are based on artwork from the museum. This one, called “Zoomy,” is based on Mark Di Suvero’s statue, “Rumi.” Dana Anderson Courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Art Course was inspired by a course done at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Claps said. But she says as far as the museum knows this is the only course inspired by art inside its own museum.

The museum worked with Hallmark Creative Marketing Studio and A to Z Theatrical to create the course.

Another summer addition is a bar with snacks and drinks from Kansas City’s Boulevard Beer, Betty Rae’s Ice Cream and James Lemonade. The bar will also be open until Labor Day and is located close to the course.

The “Walking Wall” is being created by renowned artist Andy Goldsworthy at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The first phase is done, and the wall will eventually cross Rockhill Road onto the museum grounds before entering one of the Bloch Buildings.

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