Behind the Scenes of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum's New Installation, YouBetcha

Sam Dougherty lays the foundation of a scaffolding surrounding YouBetcha.
Photos weave the creative story of YouBetcha.
Sam Dougherty sets up the first of four levels of scaffolding that will eventually take him nearly 30 feet to the top of the stick structure that he and his father, Patrick, will construct.

The journey—oftentimes, it is just as engaging and rewarding as the destination, so we asked photographer Jim Douglas to document last May’s art installation of YouBetcha at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Created by internationally-acclaimed artist Patrick Dougherty, the sculpture is on display for the next few years on the arboretum’s Scarecrow Hill.

Created out of sustainably-harvested willow branches from Waseca, the structure features a labyrinth-like interior, which visitors are encouraged to navigate and enjoy.

A Minnesota Landscape Arboretum volunteer drags a bundle of branches to the installation site for YouBetcha

Above: Wendy Composto, a Minnesota Landscape Arboretum employee, drags a bundle of willow branches to the top of Scarecrow Hill, the site of the installation.

Below: Volunteers, working in two shifts each day, begin the process of weaving twigs and branches over the exoskeleton.  (In all, four truckloads of material from the arboretum and a University of Minnesota research station were delivered to the construction site.) 

A volunteer weaves twigs and branches over the exoskeleton of YouBetcha at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Volunteers weave twigs into the base of YouBetcha.

Above: Volunteers Judy Lewis and Mike Funck, dressed in layers on a blustery May 9, weave twigs into the base of the twig structure.

Below: With three of its five towers in place, the fairytale-like weaving of Patrick Dougherty and his son, Sam, takes form. Patrick Dougherty sometimes calls his creations, “environmental art.”  Since his first piece in 1982, he is responsible for more than 300 installations all over the globe. On this day in mid-May, the sun and the return of warmth greeted the Doughertys and volunteers.

Three of the five completed towers of YouBetcha at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Patrick Dougherty and his son, Sam, stand inside of YouBetcha at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Above: Patrick Dougherty and his son, Sam, have nearly completed the 30-foot-tall, five-towered structure. Relying on carpentry skills and an affinity for nature, Dougherty and volunteers fashion magical, twisting passageways that wrap around the interior courtyard.

Below: Standing in the structure’s interior courtyard, Patrick Dougherty applies a binding material after greens have been woven among twigs and branches.  Dougherty says the woven stick sculpture is built to withstand several harsh Minnesota winters.

Patrick Dougherty stands inside of YouBetcha

Opening day of YouBetcha

Above: Opening Day—May 24. Having withstood driving rain; angry winds, which rocked the structure; and intermittent sunny weather, YouBetcha is revealed to an awe-stuck public. The Stickman, as Dougherty is universally called, describes how the towering sculpture took form over the course of three weeks.

Below: Patrick Dougherty designed YouBetcha to provide portals into the interior courtyard, where photographers, including this father and his “assistant,” document their visit.

A child rides on her father's shoulders while exploring YouBetcha

The completed YouBetcha installation

Above: Fog hovers within the finished castle of twigs and bindings—just hours before Patrick and Sam Dougherty introduce their work to the public. (No fewer than a thousand willow twigs, branches and saplings were woven by hand into what would become the second of Patrick Dougherty’s creations at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The first, Uff da Palace, was completed in 2010.)

Other Minnesota Landscape Arboretum exhibits include Winter Lights through January 5 and the Spring Flower Show from February 1-March 1.

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
3675 Arboretum Drive, Chask
612.624.2200
Facebook: Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
Twitter: @mnarboretum
Instagram: @mn_arb