Over the years, the late Dick the Bruiser has received plenty of awards and honors for being a pro wrestler and football player. That being said, it's pretty safe to say that he's never had a mini golf hole made in his likeness.
As part of the Indianapolis Museum of Art's upcoming mini golf exhibition, 18 different local and regional artists have designed playable putt-putt holes inspired by Indiana history, heritage and landmarks. Museum visitors will be able to putt through covered bridges, a Lil Bub hole, a reproduction of Kurt Vonnegut's office and much more. The course is in line with the museum's bicentennial exhibition, 19 Stars of Indiana Art, which opens a week after the mini golf course in May and runs through the end of the year.
"I want you to think of the museum as being a place where you can have all sorts of different types of experiences," says Scott Stulen, curator of audience experiences and performance at the IMA. "You can have a traditional gallery experience. You can walk through the beautiful gardens. But, you can also have something like mini golf that happens here."
Jim Walker and Brent Lehker of Big Car are the artists behind the Dick the Bruiser hole at the course. Measuring 8 by 24 feet, the hole displays a larger-than-life Bruiser and invites players to putt right into his teeth. When the ball goes into the hole, a sensor triggers the sound of Dick yelling for his beloved wife, Rio.
"Dick the Bruiser has always been somebody I've been interested in," says Walker, referring to the Hoosier icon as "the Babe Ruth" of pro wrestling. "I like these legendary characters, like Elvis and Hank Williams and stuff like that.
I think he's kind of one
of those guys."
For their hole, Walker and Lehker are using features of the wrestler's body to act as obstacles. "Sometimes on a mini golf hole, you have to go right down the middle because if you go up on this hill or that hill it'll send you away from the hole. So that's kind of what we're going to do with his pectoral muscles," Walker says. Although their hole will be pretty humongous, Walker admits that creating a piece that will simply lie flat on the ground has also come with its benefits as well.
"The nice thing about a mini golf hole is that it is on the ground," Walker says. "It gives you a nice opportunity because most of the time a 3D art object is not going to be laying flat on the ground. It offers a lot of creative possibilities since you don't have to worry about it standing up like a sculpture might usually stand up."
Fellow Big Car artist and Know No Stranger founding member Alan Goffinski is also creating a hole in the likeness of a celebrated Hoosier by the name of Ambrose Burnside — inventor of the Burnside carbine rifle. Burnside also served as a Union Army general in the Civil War. More notably, Burnside is the reason why the mighty sideburns exist.
"The whimsical aspect that really drew me to this character is that he plays such a vibrant role in the historical narrative of the United States, but he also plays such a huge role in pop culture and fashion," says Goffinski. "His last name, Burnside, was eventually flipped over the course of time, and it turned into our modern word for weird facial hair."
With this in mind, Goffinski's hole will come in the form of a giant Burnside portrait, with golfers navigating the soldier's face and sideburns to reach the hole inside his monocle.
"It involves some indoor/outdoor carpeting, some outdoor Astroturf-style grass, and some shaggier Astroturf grass that is being used for the facial hair, which will create a real challenge to putt around or through," says Goffinski. "Then when you get to the face, it's exposed lumber that's been wood burned to give the facial features." In choosing the topic for his hole, Goffinski says that he also made sure to pick something or someone that
"Mini golf has gotta be fun, it's gotta be a little bit goofy, and it's gotta be something that makes you smile," Goffinski says. "Half of the fun is just the goofiness of it, so I was really adamant about trying to find cool ways to incorporate whimsy."
In reflection on the exhibition's whimsical element, Goffinski ultimately sees this artist-designed mini golf as a great way to get more people engaged with the arts.
"It's a really inventive way to show that art has a real serious role in bringing people together and making our lives more enjoyable," says Goffinski. "I tip my hat to Scott Stulen for having the idea and having the initiative to get this off the ground. I think it's going to be a really positive thing for the arts community in the city and obviously a really big thing for the IMA."