EAGAN, Minn. -- Retired professor and artist Tony Caponi has received an Eleven Who Care award for his work to bring a 60-acre art park to Minnesotans.
Caponi Art Park and Learning Center at 1220 Diffley Road in Eagan is a living sculpture that blends art and nature.
"I don't believe people can only enjoy beauty in a museum," artist Tony Caponi said.
His art park includes miles of trails, a sculpture garden filled with bronze, stone and steel works and the "Theater in the Woods" for shows of all kinds.
"Musical performance, dance performance, poetry," Tony explained. "Everything you can relate to art."
Making it happen
Tony spent decades plowing every path and setting every stone on his land that straddles Diffley Road in Eagan.
"Back when I started people had not discovered how beautiful rocks can be," Tony explained.
Tony could see the possibilities. He imagined the park and then made it a reality with his own two hands.
"Everything you see has been his work, his vision and his physical work," Eagan City Administrator Tom Hedges said.
Making it public
As his park was coming together, so were the deals from developers.
"I could not see this place being flattened by bulldozers or houses being built all over the place," Tony explained.
In an effort to protect it, Tony shared it. He passed on the big pay day from developers, choosing instead to work with local officials to make his park available to all.
"It was unselfish on his part," Hedges said. "Most people are looking for the bottom dollar, but he is looking for an experience that people can have."
Once a dream, now a destination
Today, visits to Caponi Art Park are free. Guests enjoy the trails, the sculpture garden and the Theater in the Woods from May through October. Some will even get a chance to chat with the park creator when he is in his workshop.
"It is a formula for something tranquil and exciting at the same time and isn't that a good paradox?" retired teacher Diane Wells said.
"It really is a one-of-a- kind," Hedges added.
It is a one-of-a-kind, just like artist and teacher Tony Caponi.
He is a visionary who found the perfect blend of man-made and Mother Nature and protected it for generations to come.
(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)