Parks Department staff moving tangle town stick structure to the street.


Reimagined Art Installation Offers Animal Habitat and a Place to Play

November 7, 2019

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Tangle Town was never meant to last. Created from organic materials harvested from nearby fields, the art installation on the Children’s Museum of South Dakota’s outdoor prairie was a community project designed to age, weather, and someday disappear.

But now thanks to a partnership with the Brookings Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department the 6-ton willow structure will not only live on, but its purpose will grow even bigger.

Tangle Town changes with the seasons.

After standing on the prairie since May 2017, 2 of Tangle Town’s 9 silos were leaning considerably, and the Museum staff was concerned whether they would last through winter.

That is until a new opportunity unveiled itself: relocation of the 2 silos to Dakota Nature Park, a 135-acre park located on the south side of Brookings that includes a string of ponds, bike trails, and plenty of activities for users to enjoy nature. At the park, the art installation would serve as a point of interest and as a safe place for wildlife to take shelter from the weather.

“The Parks Department is excited to be able to cooperate with the Children’s Museum to create a unique interpretive station at the Dakota Nature Park that not only extends the life of a popular piece of art but also helps to educate the public about wildlife habitat,” said Director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry Dusty Rodiek.

Artist Patrick Dougherty, who created Tangle Town and more than 250 similar structures all over the world, leaves the decisions about dismantling his installations up to each site partner. But that doesn’t make the decision any easier.

Two Tangle Town structures are available to view off the trail at the Dakota Nature Park.

“Tangle Town means a lot to the 77 volunteers and the Museum staff who helped create it, not to mention the thousands of children and adults who play along with us each month,” said Children’s Museum of South Dakota Associate Director Mike Mogard. “That’s why it’s been very important to find a way to let the art installation live on beyond its time here on our prairie.”

The two silos — with the help of the Parks Department staff and some heavy equipment — were removed from the prairie on a brisk fall day and transferred to the Dakota Nature Park. And the remaining 7 structures continue to be a space on the Museum prairie for children and adults to play.

“Tangle Town has been a project of the community from the very beginning,” says Mogard. “Watching the art installation bring people and organizations, not to mention squirrels and rabbits, together has been fun to see.”