The Milwaukee Avenue Mini Golf Course

Last week, I found out that a recent Awesome Foundation Chicago grant winner, Katherine Darnstadt, would be setting up shop just a few blocks away from where I live. Her project, The Milwaukee Avenue Mini Golf Course, would take place on Friday, September 21st from 8AM – 8PM.

As soon as I realized how close I was going to be to the course, I contacted Katherine via Twitter. After a few quick back and forths, I found out they were going to be setting up bright and early (around 6:30 AM), and made plans to head there before work to take some photos.

A little past Kimball on Milwaukee, I spotted someone pulling things off a truck, across the street. Figured I was in the right place.

After walking over, I got to meet Katherine in person… and snapped a few photos of her, setting up at one of the first holes. The light green pallettes are for borders, to define each “hole” along the course.

And in a few instances, some courses got a patch or two of astroturf. The grass was donated, but the person donating got the amount wrong: originally, they said they were going to donate 65 feet, but in actuality it only ended up being about 15 feet.

I got to talking (and helping) a bit with Katherine at this first checkpoint, and found out a bit more about the project. The Awesome Foundation Chicago post does a great job with summarizing the project, so I’ll steal a bit from them:

Katherine has been working with Alderman Colon for the past year to rezone this particular section of Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square/Avondale to allow artists to establish live/work spaces in storefronts. The goal is to create a vibrant arts corridor in an area that is currently experiencing serial vacancy. Katherine is using the mini golf course as a means of activating the new space, drawing attention to the zoning change, and showcasing the neighborhood’s creative potential.

Additionally, the event is also timed out to coincide with Park(ing) Day, an annual, global event where people collaborate to transform metered parking spaces into temporary public places. Part of the Awesome Foundation Chicago grant money goes towards paying for the parking spaces, occupied by each hole along the course.

Doing a bit of repair work to the astroturf. Sadly, the duct tape wouldn’t bind very well to the wet underside… but the designers made do.

Setting up the mini-golf mini-solar system. Elisha Marshall is checking her phone (and what I imagine would be the course design, saved on her phone). Didn’t catch the guy’s name.

More folks helping set up! Eva and Chandra show up with some zip ties, and started to help set up the border.

Every hole on the course was walled off from the street on three sides (with the curb being the fourth “wall”). This helped ensure all golf balls stayed within bounds, and also served as a nice way to draw some attention to each hole.

One of the coolest things, as an observer, was seeing all the cars driving by and slowing down. My favorite moments were when a kid was riding shotgun, and had his or her face pressed up against the glass, checking things out.

Katherine, creating the “hole” for the mini-solar system course.

Closer to Central Park, I found Eva and Chandra setting up the space for the I-GO Car sponsored hole.

Across the way, two guys were setting up shop outside of Moe’s Tavern.

When I came over to take some photos, I was in awe of their setup. I didn’t know what the final course design would look like, but these guys seemed pretty serious about the whole thing – plywood boards and all.

Across the street, Paul (at the I-GO Car sponsored hole) told me he hadn’t accounted for the sloped angle of the street. He was busy doing some last-minute adjustments on his hole.

These guys though? They were all over it. Not only was there a slant, there was a decent gutter in the road… which they countered with a few well-placed planks of wood. Not only did they drill the plywood into place, they were also using a level to make sure everything was even.

Unfortunately, I had to jet before I could see the final product. I still don’t have any idea what this hole looked like, when it was complete!

This was one incredibly well-behaved dog (belonging to the gentleman with the cap on). This guy just kind of hung out on the sidewalk, unattended, waiting patiently. You can almost hear him saying No, it’s cool. Take your time. Whatevs.

Back at a halfway point between Central Park and Kimball, Eva and Chandra were setting up the Mars Curiosity themed hole.

On my way towards the Logan Blue Line, I stopped by to see the mini-solar system hole complete and ready to go. At the time, I didn’t stop in for a closer look at the note written by Elisha regarding the hole. But I found a close-up photo of it, and thought it worth recording here:

Where is Pluto?

Pluto was discovered in 1930, after almost a hundred years of searching for the long theorized “Planet X.” The news made headlines. The ninth planet earned its name from Venetia Burney (1918 – 2009), an eleven-year old school girl from Oxford, England.

I was born in 1982 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. I remember learning about our solar system when I was 11. The planets, their rings, and the moons that orbited them fascinated me, and I very much enjoyed saying MVEMJSUNP.

In 2006, after 76 years of research into Pluto’s size and learning it’s place within the Kuiper belt, Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet. The news made headlines. The world as I knew it has never been the same.

Out of planetary tragedy was born cultural oddities:

– New Mexico disagrees with the reclassification and declared Pluto will always be a planet while in New Mexican skies.
– March 13th was declared ‘Pluto Day’ in Illinois in honor of the date its discovery was announced in 1930.
– Pluto’s fall from grace spawned a new verb, “to pluto,” meaning “to demote or devalue someone or something.” It doesn’t get the dignity of capitalization, but it was chosen as American Dialect Society’s 2006 Word of the Year.

The planets on this course are arranged to show where they are currently in orbit around the sun, with some inaccuracies in scale. The actual hole serves as the void left after Pluto’s loss.

I am very bummed that I only got to see a small portion of the holes set up, as my initial goal was to get photos of each and every hole along the course. But unfortunately, I had to leave to get to work on time.

I didn’t get a chance to return after work, as Liz and I had dinner plans… but I’m hoping to see more photos surface of the event. You can see a few currently, if you browse around on Katherine and Elisha’s Twitter accounts.

Very cool project, and a very cool way to start my morning. The entire time I was following people around and watching them set up, I was reminded of the mini-golf courses I used to set up as a kid – when my sister and I would take over the entryway near our front door.

I made some elaborate courses back then, and it made me happy to see that others still had that spark about them.

I have to confess – though I’ve lived in the area for some time now, I’ve rarely walked this far up Milwaukee until today. Which, if I’m to understand the project, is part of the point.

I’m glad I got to meet Katherine, and glad I got some shots of the event getting set up. From what I saw, it was the start of something pretty awesome.

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. These photos are amazing! Thank you for chronicling the day. You’re right, I was looking up an image of where the planets were currently in orbit. The guy’s name is Bill, and he is a mini-golf pro.

    I hope we get to do it again, it was so much fun!

    Elisha Marshall Reply

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