But following the removal of the disturbing "Scaffold," with its reference to a mass execution of Dakota men in 1862, a question remains: Is a public park an appropriate place for artwork that might be considered dark or provocative?
When Native American writer Rob Callahan heard about the controversial "Scaffold," he had to drive over and see it for himself.
"The first thing that I thought was, my God, it's full size," he said. "You could literally hang 38 more men from this thing right now."
He stood in front of the large wood and steel gallows-sculpture and felt terrified. Not only did it not make sense in the serene, playful garden, but it was a reminder of a painful part of his family's history. He froze for nearly a minute, and then decided he had to cut all ties with the Walker Art Center as a contributing arts writer.
"The very next thing I did was get my phone out, and email my editor, and say, 'Please take down everything I've ever written for the Walker,'" he said. "'I'm no longer writing for the Walker, and I'll give back all the money you've ever paid me if you want.
"I don't want my byline, or my name, or anything I've written associated with this kind of thing."
Callahan recalled that when he was a child, his own grandmother would tell him that white settlers left gallows partially assembled as a monument to their victory over Native Americans.
"In its most literal sense, this was a jungle gym, built as a replica of this gallows that haunted my grandmother her whole life," he said. "And six generations now of my family, past and present, we've never stopped thinking about this thing ... it's always in our minds."
At the All My Relations Gallery in Minneapolis, artist Jeff Jordan said he too understands how historical trauma affects Native Americans, but he was against the removal of "Scaffold."
"I don't understand it," he said. "To me, this is what art should be. It should be a fly in the ointment, it should be something that evokes, you know, powerful emotions in people. And that's exactly what this is doing. I've heard people say, 'Oh, this is sick, children playing on a scaffold at the gallows,' and for me, that's what I like. Maybe I have more radical taste in art."
He's a registered member of the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe. He said he viewed "Scaffold" as the only serious piece of art that's ever been placed in the city's Sculpture Garden.
"I don't know what people want," he said. "Do they want a giant dream catcher out there? ... You know, a lot of art in the community, it just seems really tame, and decorative, and not difficult."
Chantry Thongrasmy, who lives across from the Sculpture Garden, paused while walking her dog to discuss her thoughts about serious or controversial art in a public space.
"You know, there's been provocative art in here," she said. "There is a place for that specific type of art. But I think, in the garden itself, probably not."
The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is set to reopen this weekend. Dakota elders and spiritual leaders are still in discussion about what to do with what's left of "Scaffold."