"Art Course" at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Photo credit: Dana Anderson.

This is the summer of the art spectacle. 

Across the globe, artists and arts organizations are challenging what we deem to be capital-a Art. Can it be a mini-golf course? Or a hot air balloon? How about sandcastles that disappear with the rising tide? 

Here are some of our favorite interactive art exhibits that are changing the status quo this summer.  

Play a round of art golf.

Art golf? Yup, you read that correctly. Nestled in the trees and terraces of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art's Sculpture Garden are nine holes of mini-golf.

The playful Art Course is inspired by works in the museum’s collection with each hole interpreting a work of art. The nine holes were selected from 75 proposals submitted by students, designers, and architects. 

“The winning holes reimagine art in ways that elevate artistic elements and teach us something about the original works of art,” said Casey Claps, Manager, Strategic Initiatives, and the project lead. “Our goal is that visitors who play Art Course will have fun while learning about and appreciating our collection in a brand new way.” 

This bold and colorful golf hole was reimagined from Mark Di Suvero's steel Rumi sculpture. Photo credit: Dana Anderson.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, visitors can experience the museum’s collection in a new and wildly creative way—and hopefully—players will be encouraged to continue their exploration in the museum. 

Build sandcastles in the UK. 

Conceptual artist Katie Paterson's participatory work, First There is a Mountainwill tour to 25 coastal art venues in the UK this summer. In tow, she'll have a set of compostable buckets. Each is in the shape of a famous mountain: Kilimanjaro, Shasta, Fuji, Stromboli, and Uluru. 

With her pails, Paterson will stage mass sandcastle-building events on local beaches. The public is invited to build the miniature mountains and then watch them disappear into the sea. Paterson hopes the experience will prompt reflections on erosion, the power of nature, and the passing of time. 

Rendering of "Silver Current" by Patrick Shearn. Courtesy of DATMA.

Celebrate wind energy. 

The Massachusetts Design, Art and Technology Institute (DATMA) commissioned Patrick Shearn of Poetic Kinetics to create the centerpiece of its "Summer Winds" exhibit in New Bedford, MA. 

The site-specific work, Silver Current, celebrates the city's emerging leadership in wind energy. New Bedford is the operations center for the first major offshore wind farm in the United States.

Inspired by the graceful, synchronous motion of schools of fish, Shearn created his signature Skynets for DAMTA. A 6,500-square-foot kinetic net sculpture reveals the coastal wind currents that are hardly visible. Built out of approximately 40,300 “ultra-lightweight metalized film", the large-scale installation is made to move and shimmer with the wind, 55-feet up in the air.

© Richard Woods, Courtesy the artist and Alan Cristea Gallery, London. Photo by Kevin J. Miyazaki for Sculpture Milwaukee

Be a homebody in the middle of a bustling city. 

Cheerful and playful houses by British artist Richard Woods seem to pop up all over the UK—on beaches, in parks, etc. This summer Sculpture Milwaukee hosts his first U.S. home—Holiday Home (Milwaukee).

Woods' cartoonish, color-blocked sculpture is a play on the crazy rise of the DIY culture while seriously thinking about globally urgent issues like housing insecurity and population displacement. 

Since the homes are built on spec using commercial products, he employs local labor to help build the scaled-down, doll-like abodes. For Holiday Home (Milwaukee), Woods collaborated with the Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps, which serves disadvantaged youth in the Milwaukee and Racine areas. The student team built and painted the house in Racine, disassembled it and transported it to Milwaukee for reassembly at its current site. Through the project, the team learned carpentry skills, painting techniques, and leadership skills.

Siah Armajani, Bridge Over Tree, 1970/2019. Photo: Timothy Schenck, Courtesy of Public Art Fund, NY

Walk over a tree in New York City.

Siah Armajani’s public art installation Bridge Over Tree may not seem out of the ordinary. In today's interactive, immersive canon of public art, it is not extraordinary to experience a bridge constructed over a tree that you can walk over. But, when conceived over 50 years ago, the piece was radical. When originally shown in a Minneapolis public park in 1970, Bridge Over Tree was barely recognizable as a work of art. 

Architectural form and sculptural practice have since been united and are now commonplace artistic strategies married together in the public realm. 

The materials of the piece are simple—an evergreen tree and a timber bridge. But, the intent is poetic. Bridge Over Tree invites us to experience the idea of a bridge in a new way. 

The Public Art Fund worked with the artist to recreate Bridge Over Tree for the first time since its original viewing. 

Watch a hot air balloon float through the sky.

If you are in Massachusetts this summer, you’re in for a treat! The Trustees of Reservations commissioned Doug Aitken’s mirrored-surface hot air balloon, New Horizon, and will be touring it across the state.

Aitken, an American artist and filmmaker, is known for his large-scale outdoor installations. His works are often platforms for engagement that provoke innovative thought and dialogue. 

His nomadic work will evolve and change over time as it flies over various landscapes. Aitken refers to New Horizon as a mirage. It will magnify the colorful sculptures in the deCordova Sculpture Park, reflect the lush green palatial grounds of the Crane Estate and amplify the crashing waves of Martha's Vineyard's shores. 













Promised to be an “Instagramable installation", the balloon will launch in mid-July and make appearances at various Massachusetts locations with curated live events and experiences. You can find the schedule here.

Looking for a memorable gift? The Trustees are also offering rides in the balloon. 

“When we invite artists to respond to our landscapes through their art for our Art & the Landscape program, we expect inspired responses, but this project by Doug Aitken surpasses our expectations,” says Barbara Erickson, Trustees President & CEO.

“He has taken not just the concept of the landscape but also the ideals of conservation, the values of social consciousness, and the nostalgia of the best summer road trips and blended them all into a visually poetic manifestation of the New England summer.”

New Horizon rendering pictured above has been provided by the artist with permissions from The Trustees.

Want to see more impressive public art installations? Check out these works that wowed in 2018.