A Walk Through Silverwood Park

By: Eileen Cohen

August 06, 2018

Category: Arts

Silverwood Park is like a living museum. It contains curiosities and specimens of every kind. Teeming with plants, animals, and art, it is a tonic for the mind and body. At Silverwood, we use art as a tool to build observation skills, foster creativity, and develop an appreciation for nature.

Take a 15-minute drive from downtown Minneapolis, and you can experience it for yourself. The land, nestled in St. Anthony, was spared from development over the years as it served as the Salvation Army’s Silver Lake Camp. Today, as part of Three Rivers, it retains some of the camp’s original character and function, offering a respite from city life and a place for art and nature to intersect.

An historic aerial view of Silverwood Park.
Aerial photo from late 1930s shows the remote setting Silver Lake provided during the camp’s early years. The land surrounding the camp was primarily devoted to agriculture until the post WWII building boom. Photo credit: Salvation Army.

Observe and Appreciate Art and Nature on the Trail

A mile-long paved trail weaves through Silverwood. It takes you through the prairie and oak forest and along the shores of Silver Lake. The trail is dotted with a diverse collection of outdoor sculptures and poetry stops meant to expand our perceptions of the natural world.

The sculptures create a unique landscape. They are landmarks and easy to spot. 

A large metal sculpture of the number 5.

If I said “Let’s meet at the 5,” you would find yourself at High Five by Andrew MacGuffie. High Five reminds us to use our fingers and senses to explore and celebrate our surroundings. 

A wooden structure that looks like a tree stump.

The newest sculpture is called Archenteron. It was designed and created by a sculpture class from Bethel University. It looks like a giant tree stump. Take a walk through it; the experience is a metaphor for the developmental and transformative power of nature. 

A metal sculpture on three legs that looks like a space ship.

Need a change of perspective? Look through Sara Hanson’s Bio Scenic Machine Cyto-Squad. It is a kaleidoscope seemingly from outer space. Use it to discover and explore the ecology and environment of the park. In Sara’s words, its “mirrored reflections of plants and animals, microscopic images of organisms, and other biological specimens” applaud all the seasons.

The Café and Gallery

silverwood visitor center

If you head inside the visitor center, you’ll be rewarded with rotating gallery exhibitions. Grab a cup of coffee from the café and see what’s new, or plan your visit around an upcoming gallery reception

Each artist who displays their work uses a variety of methods and materials but all share a connection to nature and Silverwood Park. Understanding these connections can help us expand our ideas of why nature is important and how art can inspire us.

See what two artists who have displayed work at Silverwood have to say about art, nature and their creative process.

A Tradition of Fresh Air and Summer Camps

A historic photo of a car driving under a sign that says "Salvation Army Fresh Air Camp."
Silver Lake Camp entrance, 1925. Photo credit: Salvation Army.

In its early days, Silver Lake Camp was widely known as “The Salvation Army Fresh Air Camp.” The name derived from the camp’s mission of providing outdoor experiences for local children from Minneapolis and St. Paul. Many campers had never been beyond the city limits before making the short car ride to the camp.

Kids at summer camp wearing pretend armor and holding a cardboard sword.

Today, we continue to offer summer camps at Silverwood Park. Campers investigate the park through a variety of art projects and outdoor experiences. 

In August, we host the Silverwood Student Show in the main gallery. This show honors students who find beauty and inspiration in the natural world. 

Experience It for Yourself

Silverwood is a place that offers respite from the buzz of daily of life. It is a place that encourages creativity and challenges perceptions of art and nature. Here, you are free to learn and explore. 

Next time you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and see what’s in the gallery, take a stroll to visit the sculptures, or pull up a rocking chair and soak in the scenery. We hope to see you soon.

About the Author

eileen cohen

Eileen Cohen is an Art Educator and Exhibitions Coordinator at Silverwood Park, where she is approaching her nine-year work anniversary. Combining her love of the nature and art, Eileen found her dream job with Three Rivers Park District. She studied ceramics in college and graduate school and maintains a studio practice in northeast Minneapolis. She also teaches at the Northern Clay Center. A perfect day is over 70 degrees and includes adventure, fun, her bike, and a horse or two.


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