Visual Arts

Mini golf gets artsy at the Coral Gables Museum

The Great Wall of China, the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Australia’s 700 million-year-old Ayers Rock, Guatemala’s El Gran Jaguar Temple and even local landmarks like Coral Gables’ Alhambra Water Tower are featured in ‘Mini Golf 2015: International Edition.’
The Great Wall of China, the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Australia’s 700 million-year-old Ayers Rock, Guatemala’s El Gran Jaguar Temple and even local landmarks like Coral Gables’ Alhambra Water Tower are featured in ‘Mini Golf 2015: International Edition.’

For only a few more weeks, the Coral Gables Museum is housing a nine-hole miniature golf playable exhibit in one of its large gallery rooms, combining art, history, geography and exercise with air-conditioning.

Local architects and students from the University of Miami and Florida International University’s schools of architecture designed and built nine replicas of monuments and landmarks, one for each hole. The Great Wall of China, the Great Pyramid of Giza, Australia’s 700 million-year-old Ayers Rock and Guatemala’s El Gran Jaguar temple are among the international landmarks represented, along with local landmarks such as Coral Gables’ Alhambra Water Tower.

Christine Rupp, director of the Coral Gables Museum, said she got the idea from the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. when it featured a mini golf indoor exhibit a few years ago. She said the two museums’ themes aligned in promoting architecture, design, sustainability, environmental sensitivity and preservation.

Her call to FIU and UM School of Architecture students and local architects was simple: Design mini golf holes with an international theme.

“The idea,” she said, “is that with the text at each hole, each student would learn a little bit about geography and international landmarks while playing mini golf in the air-conditioning at the same time.”

Cards at each hole display a description of what each landmark is, including its history and location in the world, along with the names of the students who created it and their school affiliation. Two-dimensional bar codes, when scanned with a smart phone, take players to a Wikipedia page with additional information about the landmarks.

The ideas for which landmarks would be featured were up to the architecture students, who then built them off site and assembled them at the museum. Rupp went through about 15 submissions before deciding on the final nine.

On hole No. 5, the representation of El Gran Jaguar Temple stands about three feet high. A notecard to one side explains that it’s one of nine temples in that World Heritage Site, and that it’s also known as Tikal Temple, a funerary temple built between 682 and 734 A.D. but not discovered until 1848. The real thing in Guatemala rises to 154 feet “in nine stepped levels symbolic of the nine levels of the Underworld.”

“I like that it has different places from different parts of the world,” said Lucas, 9, a camper from Coral Gables Museum’s City Trekker summer camp, where kids get to hone their putting skills and also learn about Miami-Dade County on field trips to different cities. The golf theme of exploring different well-known places throughout the world ties into the camp’s objective, Rupp said.

This year’s golf exhibit is actually the museum’s second. It was brought back to the Fewell Gallery after many requests, from visitors to staff members. Two years ago, during the museum’s first indoor mini golf exhibit, the theme was Coral Gables Landmarks. This one, called Mini Golf 2015: International Edition, will run through Sept. 13.

Caesar Vasquez of Kendall brought his 14-year-old niece and 13-year-old nephew to play a few rounds of put-put at the exhibit on a recent Thursday afternoon.

“"I figured that they would like this,” he said, though before his first visit there, he wasn’t sure how a mini golf course could operate inside of a gallery. “I didn’t know how they’d be able to do this indoors, but it’s actually a pretty nice setup.”

Marina Portuondo, 14, a summer volunteer at the museum, likes the Gran Jaguar relic because “it’s the prettiest.” She also likes an abstract sculpture made out of brightly colored PVC pipes.

“I like that one because it’s meant for two players,” she said, alluding to a lever that the second person has to push, which can either help the golf ball go into the hole or push the ball away.

Other exhibits currently featured in the museum include a photography contest and showcase called Capture Coral Gables 2015, a documentary photo story of Coral Gables’ founder and developer titled Creating the Dream: George E. Merrick and His Vision for Coral Gables and Coral Gables Sister Cities: Partners in Peace, which highlights the movement started by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the mid ‘50s to promote cultural understanding.

If you go

What: ‘Mini Golf 2015: International Edition.’

Where: Coral Gables Museum’s Robert and Marian Fewell Gallery, 285 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables.

When: Noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday (closed Monday), through Sept. 13.

Cost: $5 plus museum entrance ($7 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, $3 for children; free for members, children under six and military families).

Information: Call 305-603-8067 or visit coralgablesmuseum.org/contact.php.

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