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Educational workshops offer experiences in environmental artmaking at Western Sculpture Park each summer. They are centered in a unique mobile art lab – the Spider, created in 2009 by puppeteer/sculptor Christopher Lutter-Gardella. Spider is a kinetic arachnid sculpture with eight googly eyes and hairy legs that support a billowing tent to shelter creative activity 12 times each summer. Two teaching artists under the leadership of Public Art Saint Paul’s Education Director, Mary Johnson, lead each workshop. While honing artmaking skills, kids also learn about water quality and the Mississippi River. The three-hour workshops are free and open to young people of all ages, and a nutritious snack and beverage is provided each day.

Listen to our Spider Theme Song
“Art in the Park” by Nate Way

About the Artists

Mary Johnson


Mary Johnson has been Director of Education, and now Curator of Community Engagement, at Public Art Saint Paul since 2013. In this position, she directs the programs and community engagement at Western Sculpture Park as well as other educational activities. As a sculptor, she created Max Rabitat, commissioned for Western Sculpture Park in 2009. Mary is a teaching artist and has led the Youth Education Workshops planning since 2012. She has been an adjunct sculpture instructor at the College of St. Benedict and St John’s University, has taught classes and workshops at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities; Franconia Sculpture Park; Selby Avenue JazzFest; community art centers in Rochester, Minnetonka, and White Bear Lake; and at a host of other festivals, events, and workshops throughout the Midwest.

In her artistic practice, Mary utilizes recycled and repurposed materials for the creation of sculptural works.

Both the Minnesota DNR and Hudson, WI’s RiverFest have commissioned her to create large outdoor public sculptures made from materials gathered from river cleanups. These sculptures highlight the impact of our everyday actions on our precious public waters.


Esther Ouray

Esther Ouray has worked and lived as a performing and teaching artist for 40 years. She thrives on community engaged art and theater. She is a mother and grandmother and envisions a just, healthy future for all children.


Aaron Marx

Aaron Marx is an artist, designer, and educator working at the intersection of digital technology, architecture, and public space. Trained as an architect, with a background in mathematics and literature, Aaron teaches design in the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota, practices architecture, and creates multi-media participatory public art installations. Aaron’s art is multifaceted taking form in drawing, painting, projection, and the development of tools for civic engagement. He is active in the arts community as a member of Minneapolis Art on Wheels (MAW), MS Collective, and Public Art Saint Paul’s Collaboratory. Most recently, Aaron has exhibited work as an Art(ist) on the Verge fellow, participated in the Walker Art Center’s artist designed mini golf, and developed site specific participatory installations for Northern Spark.


Sarah Nassif

Observing nature connects us with the landscape in new ways each time. It’s fun and anyone can do it. I create interventions that ask people to notice, document and share their experiences with nature. These may be collaborative screenprinting workshops that produce patterns from participants’ tree observations, a self-guided nature foray experience driven by a free field book and pencil, or textiles that put consumers into the role of naturalist collector.

My process begins with natural history topics I’m curious about. When an idea emerges, I spend time observing, photographing or drawing the subject. Right now I’m very interested in cottonwood trees, a common resident of Minnesota river floodplain forests. Cottonwoods have an interesting relationship with bees, who use the antimicrobial resin from cottonwood buds to build and protect their hives. The trees play other important roles, too, and there is concern about their future in the Mississippi River Gorge. Damming the river ended the annual flooding of river banks, preventing germination of cottonwood seeds. Few saplings and many very old trees present a challenge to future eagle nesting habitat. I seek to find a way to share stories like this through my art.


Eric F. Avery

Eric F. Avery is an interdisciplinary artist who, recently, has been commissioned by Northern Lights.mn to create a piece for Northern Spark, awarded a Cultural Community Partnership Grant from Minnesota State Arts Board, and named a Naked Stages Fellow at Pillsbury House Theatre.  Outside of creating his own work he has collaborated with Basil Twist, Mabou Mines, 10,000 Things, In the Heart of the Beast, Theatre Latte Da, Children’s Theatre Company, Public Art Saint Paul, Puppet Farm Arts, Savage Umbrella, and more.


Partners & Funders


Public Art Saint Paul
Saint Paul Parks and Recreation
Capitol Region Watershed District
Saint Paul Sewer Utility


I. A. O’Shaughnessy Foundation
R. C. Lilly Foundation
Sage Cleveland Foundation
Timberwolves Fastbreak Foundation
Capitol Region Watershed District
The Elmer L & Eleanor J. Andersen Foundation
The Saint Paul Foundation
F. R. Bigelow Foundation
Mardag Foundation
The John and Ruth Huss Fund of The Saint Paul Foundation
Generous Individuals
The voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

2016 Schedule

  • All Workshops are from 1:00-4:00pm

    • Tuesday, June 14
    • Tuesday, June 21
    • Tuesday, June 28
    • Tuesday, July 5
    • Tuesday, July 12
    • Tuesday, July 19
    • Tuesday, July 26
    • Tuesday, August 2
    • Tuesday, August 9
    • Tuesday, August 16
    • Saturday, August 20
    • Tuesday, August 23

Each workshop is led by 2-teaching artists under leadership of Public Art Saint Paul’s Education Director, Mary Johnson.  While having a grand time, kids also develop art making skills and learn about our water system and the Mississippi River — the theme of this summer’s art projects.  We will have special guests — a fire truck!  an eagle! and more!

Workshops are free and open to young people of all ages.  Participants can be part of one, some or all workshops!

Workshops run for 3 hours, from 1:00 – 4:00.  Nutritious snack and beverage are provided at break mid–session break.

2016 Teaching Artists:

Carolina Borja, Aaron Marx, Alissa McCourt, Sarah Nassif, and Esther Ouray

Please contact Mary Johnson, Education Director, Public Art Saint Paul 651-290-0921 or mary@publicartstpaul.org for informaiton, to reserve space for a group, or to make accessibility arrangements.