Tucked into a warehouse off of University Avenue in St. Paul is a hidden carnival of amusements: vintage arcade games, miniature golf, boardwalk-style treats, and cocktails, all kissed with a magic created by local artists.
Can Can Wonderland officially opens to the public tomorrow, and the new funky destination is sure to be a go-to spot for something a little different.
The mini-golf course itself is a spectacular wonder. Filled with giant pink and polka-dotted creatures, street art-style murals, mini ferris wheels, elaborate mousetrap contraptions, and more, the whole course is a delight.
Christi Atkinson -- who co-owns Can Can along with Chris and Jennifer Pennington and Rob Clapp -- knows a thing or two about artist-designed mini golf, having been instrumental in bringing it to the Walker Art Center a decade ago.
“We used to do it as a way to celebrate local artists and highlight the sculpture garden, and now the Walker does it every year because it’s a money maker,” she says. Atkinson believes there’s plenty of room for another venue in this niche market. “The more in town the better,” she says. “It would be totally great if we were a town noted for artist-designed mini golf.”
When Can Can hosted a preview on New Year’s Eve, the space was brimming with a weird carnivalesque energy. “Here’s the cool thing,” says Rob Clapp. “There’s nothing like this and so therefore we will be unique and different.”
“Even our own families didn’t understand what we were doing,” Atkinson says. “It’s hard to explain. There are a lot of abstract concepts.”
The four owners want to put artists at the forefront, evidenced by the creativity that’s bursting at the seams all over the warehouse space.
“What gets me excited is getting to pay artists for their work, and having a place that’s been created that’s imbued with artists,” Atkinson says. So far, they’ve employed artists to create the mini-golf course, but Atkinson hopes to hire more talents for other projects in the future.
One of the artists featured is Zoran Mojsilov, who has also created mini-golf artwork for the Walker’s course. Mojsilov and Atkinson are in a yoga class together, and that’s where she asked him to step in four months ago at Can Can when another artist canceled.
They hired Mojsilov to build a drink rail. Instead, they got an elaborate forest of sculpted trees.
“Zoran has been a gift to us,” says Clapp. “Ever since he came in, it was just the energy we needed to spruce up the place.”
In his work, Mojsilov draws on imagery from the ancient art of carpet making in his grandmother’s village. One of these carpets is displayed as part of the installation, and Mojsilov’s sculptures use symbols from the carpet as well.
Eventually, Can Can Wonderland will be home to the Break Room, where people can destroy things to vent their frustration. That will be opening later in 2017. For now, come and play a round, play some arcade games, and enjoy the wondrous atmosphere.
Can Can Wonderland opens tomorrow, January 12.
IF YOU GO:
Can Can Wonderland
755 Prior Ave. N. Ste. 4, St. Paul