Blogs Centerpoints Around the Twin Cities

Learning in Public: An Open Letter on Sam Durant’s Scaffold

On May 25, Walker director Olga Viso outlined the approach for selecting the 18 new sculptures to be unveiled in June in the reconstructed Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. One work by Los Angeles–based artist Sam Durant entitled Scaffold, which addresses the history of the death penalty, is raising questions among some local audiences for its reference, among […]

bg2017msg-ren0518 Building & Grounds, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, renovation, reconstruction. Photo by Gene Pittman for Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, May 18, 2017. North face of Barnes and expansion from bridge ramp; terraces, Lichtenstein Salute to Painting, Acc. no. 1985.31, new plantings along Vineland, Sol LeWitt on Terrace, Acc. no. 1987.12.1-.81.

The Walker as seen from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, with new plantings along Hennepin and Lyndale. Photo: Gene Pittman

On May 25, Walker director Olga Viso outlined the approach for selecting the 18 new sculptures to be unveiled in June in the reconstructed Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. One work by Los Angeles–based artist Sam Durant entitled Scaffold, which addresses the history of the death penalty, is raising questions among some local audiences for its reference, among others, to a specific event in Minnesota history related to the US-Dakota War. Here, in an open letter to The Circle, a publication devoted to Native American news and arts, Viso discusses Durant’s sculpture, as well as the artist’s and the Walker’s intents, and acknowledges potential communal concerns with the work’s reception, especially among local Native audiences.

For the last 30 years, the Walker Art Center has been responsible for selecting art for the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, adding new works by emerging artists working in diverse forms. During our process of choosing works for the newly reconstructed Garden opening this summer, we sought to engage artists whose works often explore complex questions about the times in which we live. One of these is Sam Durant’s Scaffold (2012). Constructed of wood and steel, this work layers together the forms of seven historical gallows that were used in US state-sanctioned executions by hanging between 1859 and 2006. These representations, assembled one on top of the other, intersect into a single, complicated structure. This composite forms what Durant intends as a critique—“neither memorial nor monument”—that invokes white, governmental power structures that have controlled and subjugated nations and peoples, especially communities of color, throughout the history of the US.

Of the seven gallows depicted in Durant’s sculpture, there is one specific to Minnesota history: the gallows design related to the execution of the Dakota 38 in Mankato, Minnesota in 1862. The Mankato Massacre represents the largest mass execution in the history of the United States, in which 38 Dakota men were executed by order of President Lincoln in the same week that the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. It is one of the greatest atrocities in the history of our state and in the history of capital punishment. The artist has referenced this event along with the other six scaffolds that comprise the structure, which include those used to execute abolitionist John Brown (1859); the Lincoln Conspirators (1865), which included the first woman executed in US history; the Haymarket Martyrs (1886), which followed a labor uprising and bombing in Chicago; Rainey Bethea (1936), the last legally conducted public execution in US history; Billy Bailey (1996), the last execution by hanging (not public) in the US; and Saddam Hussein (2006), for war crimes at a joint Iraqi/US facility.

Durant’s sculpture raises complex questions about how contentious moments in history are remembered. It raises deeper questions still about how, why, by whom, and for whom. As an institution that champions the work of living artists, we also champion the freedom of expression extended to artists and audiences alike. We recognize, however, that the siting of Scaffold in our state, on a site that is only a short distance from Mankato, raises unique concerns. We recognize the decision to exhibit this work might cause some to question the Walker’s sensitivity to Native audiences and audiences in Minnesota more familiar with this dark history.

As director of the Walker, I regret that I did not better anticipate how the work would be received in Minnesota, especially by Native audiences. I should have engaged leaders in the Dakota and broader Native communities in advance of the work’s siting, and I apologize for any pain and disappointment that the sculpture might elicit. When I first encountered Scaffold in a sculpture park in Europe five years ago, I saw a potent artistic statement about the ethics of capital punishment. Most importantly, I recognized its capacity to address the buried histories of violence in this country, in particular raising needed awareness among white audiences. I knew this could be a difficult artwork on many levels. This is invariably connected to national issues still embedded in the psyche of this country and its violent, colonialist past.

Yet despite my and the Walker’s earnest intent to raise understanding and increase awareness of this and other histories in our American democracy, the work remains problematic in our community in ways that we did not sufficiently anticipate or imagine. There is no doubt that what we perceived as a multifaceted argument about capital punishment on a national level affecting a variety of communities across the US may be read through a different lens here in Minnesota. We also acknowledge that the artist’s intent to create a work meant “as a space of remembering” may be misread. Because the structure can serve as a gathering space, which allows visitors to explore it in un-ceremonial ways, we realize it requires heightened attention and education in all of our visitor orientation and interpretation.

It is my hope that this moment will foster critical and productive conversations around the complex questions the artist brings forth. I also intend that it provoke discussion about how the Walker can strive to be a more sensitive and inclusive institution. This is a deep learning moment—and will not be the last—for the Walker and its relationship with Native audiences. I pledge that we will continue to learn actively, and in public, and to create pathways for listening and supporting the full range of conversations that this work will engender as they evolve in the weeks and months ahead.

Our next steps will be decided in consultation with community members who elect to be involved in this process; we will look to their feedback in shaping the framework for this process. As part of our active learning we recognize that our work moving forward must be done with the guidance of the Dakota community. To start our listening process we invite your feedback to this email address: feedback@walkerart.org.

 

Around Town: Sculpture Garden on Loan

The Walker and Minneapolis Sculpture campus renovation will be completed with the reopening of the Garden on June 3, 2017, created an integrated 19-acre campus. Numerous changes—the addition of 18 new artworks and more than 300 new trees, eco-friendly landscape features, and a water reuse system—will improve the Garden’s aesthetics, accessibility, and long-term stability. As spring haltingly […]

Brower Hatcher, Prophecy of the Ancients, 1989, on loan to the City of Minneapolis and Gold Medal Park. Photo: George Heinrich, October 2016.

Brower Hatcher, Prophecy of the Ancients (1989), on loan to the City of Minneapolis and Gold Medal Park. Photo: George Heinrich, October 2016

The Walker and Minneapolis Sculpture campus renovation will be completed with the reopening of the Garden on June 3, 2017, created an integrated 19-acre campus. Numerous changes—the addition of 18 new artworks and more than 300 new trees, eco-friendly landscape features, and a water reuse system—will improve the Garden’s aesthetics, accessibility, and long-term stability. As spring haltingly arrives in Minneapolis, installation of returning works, as well as those newly commissioned or acquired, continues apace. While we look forward to welcoming more than 30 artworks back to the Garden, there will be some familiar faces missing.

Mark di Suvero, Molecule, 1991, on loan to the City of Minneapolis and Gold Medal Park. Photo: George Heinrich, October 2016.

Mark di Suvero, Molecule (1991), on loan to the City of Minneapolis and Gold Medal Park. Photo: George Heinrich, October 2016

Nearly all the previous Minneapolis Sculpture Garden artworks were placed in storage during construction. Leveraging innovative partnerships across Minneapolis with the Gold Medal Park Conservancy Fund, the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia), and the Weisman Art Museum, the Walker relocated several of the most beloved sculptures through long-term loans, allowing the works to remain accessible to the public. The loans are renewable each year and partnering organizations have agreed to the arrangement for up to five years, after which time the loans will be reevaluated.

Tony Cragg, Ordovician, 1989, on loan to the City of Minneapolis and Gold Medal Park. Photo: George Heinrich, October 2016.

Tony Cragg, Ordovician Pore (1989), on loan to the City of Minneapolis and Gold Medal Park. Photo: George Heinrich, October 2016

Brower Hatcher’s Prophecy of the Ancients (1988), Mark di Suvero’s Molecule (1977–1983), and Tony Cragg’s Ordovician Pore (1989) were loaned to Gold Medal Park, which sits adjacent to the Guthrie Theater, the Walker’s former neighbor, along the Mississippi Riverfront.Jacques Lipchitz’s Prometheus Strangling the Vulture II (1944/1953) was loaned to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, aligning with the institution’s robust bronze collection. Frank Gehry’s Standing Glass Fish (1986) is on loan to the Weisman Art Museum, housed in the iconic Gehry–designed building on the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus.

Frank Gehry, Standing Glass Fish, 1986, installed in the Weisman Museum at the University of Minnesota. Photo: Rik Sferra, February 15, 2016.

Frank Gehry, Standing Glass Fish (1986), installed in the Weisman Museum at the University of Minnesota. Photo: Rik Sferra, February 15, 2016

Take Action: Sound off on Saving the NEA, NEH, IMLS, and CPB

As the leader of the Walker Art Center, an arts institution created with major support from the federal government and launched by a belief that national investment in the arts is essential to the health of our democracy, I was extremely disappointed to see that the Trump Administration’s federal budget proposal, released on March 16, calls for the elimination of […]

2015winterwalker0207ffs Visual Arts; Education, Community Programs. Family Events; Free Events; Parties and Special Events; Free First Saturday. Winter Walkerland, Part of 75 Gifts for 75 Years; Target and Friedman Galleries, Free Family Art-Making Activities in the Art Lab, February 7, 2015. Celebrate the Walker’s 75th anniversary as a public art center with an eventful community weekend featuring free gallery admission and activities for the whole family. Ice skating in the Garden, Art Hotline, gallery views. 75 Gifts for 75 Years, Target and Friedman Galleries, February 5, 2015 – August 2, 2015. Photos by Lacey Criswell for Walker Art Center. Ice skating in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden; Spoonbridge and Cherry; Art Lab; Gallery views; kids.

Visitors pose with Robert Indiana’s LOVE (1966–1998) in the Walker galleries, 2015. Photo: Lacey Criswell for Walker Art Center

As the leader of the Walker Art Center, an arts institution created with major support from the federal government and launched by a belief that national investment in the arts is essential to the health of our democracy, I was extremely disappointed to see that the Trump Administration’s federal budget proposal, released on March 16, calls for the elimination of all funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Without question, these agencies are critical to art organizations’ ability to serve their communities as educational and economic assets. 

In particular, the NEA, NEH, and IMLS award tens of thousands of grants to organizations, schools, and artists in thousands of communities across the United States. They also have an incredible leveraging effect on other state, local, and private sources. The nonprofit arts industry generates $135.2 billion annually in economic activity, supports 4.1 million full-time-equivalent jobs in the arts and related industries, and returns $9.6 billion in federal income taxes. There has been a tradition of strong bipartisan support of these agencies over the decades, and with your help it can continue into the future.

epp2017student-tour0110 Education, Public Programming; Student Tour Groups, January 10, 2017. Students visit the galleries with EPP Educators leading tours to the exhibition Question the Wall Itself, and the Target Project Space featuring the Frank Big Bear collage. Views of the Main Bazinet Lobby also included. Photo by Alice Gebura for Walker Art Center.

A student tour group checks out The Walker Collage, Multiverse #10 (2016) by Frank Big Bear Bear, January 2017. Photo: Alice Gebura for Walker Art Center

As a longtime member of the Association of Art Museum Director (AAMD), I am proud to share with you a statement recently issued by the organization:

The arts are a shared expression of the human spirit and a hallmark of our humanity. Art touches people throughout their lives—from toddlers first learning about the world, to those with Alzheimer’s disease reconnecting with someone they love. Museums offer art programs to help teachers and homeschoolers prepare lessons, to train medical students to be better doctors, to ease the suffering of veterans with PTSD, and to share with people across the country the best of creative achievement. The NEA, NEH, and IMLS are essential partners in this work, providing grants to many types of nonprofit organizations and helping to bring the arts to every part of America, from rural areas to military bases to urban centers.

It’s also important to note that the arts and culture contribute more than $2 billion annually to Minnesota’s economy and support more than 104,000 artist and creative worker jobs in this state. The proposed elimination of the federal arts agencies would hit Minnesota even harder than other states because the arts are such a big part of our quality of life and sense of place. In fact, a recent study showed that Minnesotans attend the arts and create art themselves at a rate exceeding the national average.

Olgo Viso (front left, with "ART" sign) and others at Arts Advocacy Day 2017. Photo: Minnesota Citizens for the Arts

Olgo Viso (front left, with “ART” sign) and others at Arts Advocacy Day 2017. Photo: Minnesota Citizens for the Arts

Since arriving in Minnesota nine years ago, I have been proud that the Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden offer a welcoming civic space for the public to not only be introduced to and be inspired by art we present but to also bring a multiplicity of perspectives into respectful consideration and focus. The elimination of the NEA, NEH, IMLS, and CPB would make it harder for the Walker to fulfill its mission to serve as a catalyst for the creative expression of artists and the active engagement of audiences. More importantly, it would be a step backwards for our great nation, which has long benefited from the federal government’s modest investment in the arts.

I urge Walker members, visitors, and arts enthusiasts everywhere to learn more about this issue by visiting Americans for the Arts. That link will enable you to easily contact your legislators to let them know right now that you strongly oppose the elimination of the NEA, NEH, IMLS, and CPB.

Your voice can make a difference in saving these important federal agencies and affirming that the arts are critical to the fabric of our society.

epp2017ffs0204 Education, Public Programs. Family Events, Free Events. Free First Saturday: Off the Wall, Feburary 4, 2017. Part of the exhibition Question the Wall Itself. Photo by Alice Gebura for Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Main Bazinet Lobby, Hennepin Lounge, Art Lab, Cargill Lounge. Art-Making: Map Montage. Star Tribune Foundation Art Lab. Discover and create new places to explore as you add, remove, and change transparent layers on a Walker Art Center map projected on the wall. Art-making: Pop-Up Cards. Hennepin Lounge. Create a surprising three-dimensional greeting card to share with someone or keep for yourself. Performance: Narrative Art. Cargill Lounge. Local storyteller Alexei Casselle brings stories to life during performances inspired by the exhibition Question the Wall Itself.

Family art-making at the Walker’s Free First Saturday, February 2017. Photo: Alice Gebura for Walker Art Center

Our Picks for Give to the Max Day 2016

Today is Give to the Max Day, a 24-hour event sponsored by GiveMN.org in support of Minnesota’s schools and nonprofits. More than a day of marathon donating, Give to the Max provides individuals with an opportunity to appreciate the generous, vital philanthropic community in the Twin Cities. In that spirit, Walker staff members have shared some […]

Today is Give to the Max Day, a 24-hour event sponsored by GiveMN.org in support of Minnesota’s schools and nonprofits. More than a day of marathon donating, Give to the Max provides individuals with an opportunity to appreciate the generous, vital philanthropic community in the Twin Cities. In that spirit, Walker staff members have shared some of their favorite nonprofit organizations that support the arts in Minnesota. The Walker Art Center is proud to work with many of the remarkable nonprofits that invigorate the local arts community. Check out our picks for Give to the Max Day 2016 and happy donating!

Cedar Cultural Center

The Cedar Cultural Center

Established  in 1989 in Minneapolis’s Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, this nonprofit venue hosts a wide variety of global music and dance performances—in addition to supporting artist residencies, screening films, and presenting comedy, spoken word, and community events. A longtime partner with the Walker, we’ll be co-presenting several concerts with the Cedar this spring, including Mbongwana Star on March 3 and Kneedelus, a live collaboration between Kneebody and Daedelus, on March 24.

GIVE 

Suggested by Molly Hanse, Performing Arts

DanceMN

DanceMN

DanceMN is an artist-driven resource designed to connect, educate, and publicize dance services and information in the Twin Cities and statewide. Presented by Springboard for the Arts, DanceMN supports local dance artists by sharing news of upcoming performances, workshops, master classes, and auditions.

GIVE 

Suggested by Anat Shinar, Performing Arts

 IFP MN

Independent Filmmaker Project

The Independent Filmmaker Project promotes a vibrant and diverse community of independent film and media artists through networking, educational programs, and providing funding and screening opportunities. With the end goal of creating a healthy and viable filmmaking community in Minnesota, IFP sponsors screenings, workshops, and fellowships. Beginning in January, IFP Minnesota in coordination with the Walker will be presenting and the Walker Art Center screenings of Independent Spirit Awards–nominated films.

GIVE 

Suggested by Emily Gastineau, Education and Public Programs

 

Interact Center

Interact Center

Founded in 1996, the Interact Center is dedicated to providing studio and performing arts opportunities for artists with disabilities ages 18 and up, supporting them as they pursue a creative career. The Center’s radical inclusion of these disabled artists encourages them to challenge perceptions of disability through art, enriching the Twin Cities artistic offerings by sharing their diverse experiences. This November will see Interact’s theatrical ensemble production of the play What Fools These Mortals Be, as well as the organization’s 20th-anniversary celebration.

GIVE 

Suggested by Julia Anderson, Education and Public Programs

 

Ka Joog

Ka Joog

Ka Joog aims to motivate Somali youth to achieve higher levels of education and civic engagement by offering community-based, culturally specific programs and services to them and their families. Their FANKA arts program hosts workshops in music, storytelling, painting, and sculpture, encouraging youth to dive into Somali artistic traditions and to empower one another through art.  2016 projects include the production of a touring play, Chronicles of the Diaspora, and a documentary in partnership with local PBS station TPT and the Somali Museum titled Somalia: A Nation of Poets.

GIVE 

Suggested by Maya Weisinger, Education and Public Programs

 

kkc2

Kulture Klub Collaborative

The Kulture Klub Collaborative provides enriching multidisciplinary opportunities in the arts for youth experiencing homelessness. KKC brings together homeless youth and local artist to work on transforming the community through workshops, open mics, artist residencies, and art outings. Allowing artists to grow and enact change, the KKC brings dignity and respect to homeless youth. All donations that Kulture Klub receives from this year’s Give to the Max will be going directly to enact strategies for minimizing barriers to youth participation in the arts, funding transportation, food, and child care assistance.

GIVE 

Suggested by Ashley Duffalo, Design/Editorial

 

NAZ

Northside Achievement Zone

Northside Achievement Zone operates as both an organization and a collaborative of more than 40 service providers and schools, supported through a public-private partnership. With the mission of eradicating educational and social disparities in the North Minneapolis community, NAZ focuses on closing the academic achievement gap for low-income children of color and preparing those students and families for college. Early childhood education, K–12, and after-school and summer programming set students on the track to college while enriching their experience with the arts.

GIVE (Direct donations here.)

Suggested by Maya Weisinger, Education and Public Programs

 Soap Factory

The Soap Factory

Housed in the historic National Purity Soap Company building, the Soap Factory is a contemporary art gallery that serves as a laboratory for artistic experimentation and innovation. The Soap is dedicated to supporting artists and engaging audiences in discussion by provide funding, development and exhibition space for new work. On view through December 18 are the 2016 submissions show Working Forces and the single-artist exhibition Mathew Zefeldt: Desktop.

GIVE 

Suggested by Emily Gastineau, Education and Public Programs

Two Rivers Gallery

Two Rivers Gallery

Two Rivers Gallery serves as the arts and cultural resource department of the Minneapolis American Indian Center, which was one of the first urban American Indian centers in the country to provide educational and social services when established in 1974. Seeking to preserve and support American Indian cultural traditions, MAIC organizes youth and intergenerational programs in the arts and presents the work of Native artists in the Two Rivers Gallery. On view through November 25 is the exhibition Dakota Isanti: Reclaiming Identity.

GIVE 

Suggested by Molly Hanse, Performing Arts

(Not So) Set in Stone: Zoran Mojsilov Repurposes Sculpture Garden Materials

In light of the renovation of the 19-acre Walker Art Center/Minneapolis Sculpture Garden campus, here’s a spotlight on a local artist who is giving new life to some of the Garden’s original materials. Since the mid-1990s Twin Cities–based artist Zoran Mojsilov has been fashioning large-scale sculptures out of discarded stones salvaged from construction and renovation sites, […]

Stones from the Garden set out in formation at Mojsilov’s studio near the Grain Belt Brewery in July 2016.

Stones from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in formation at artist Zoran Mojsilov’s studio near the Grain Belt Brewery in July 2016

In light of the renovation of the 19-acre Walker Art Center/Minneapolis Sculpture Garden campus, here’s a spotlight on a local artist who is giving new life to some of the Garden’s original materials.

Since the mid-1990s Twin Cities–based artist Zoran Mojsilov has been fashioning large-scale sculptures out of discarded stones salvaged from construction and renovation sites, and one of his newest projects features material reclaimed from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. (more…)

Campus Renovation Update: Sculptures Move to Gold Medal Park

In preparation for the renovation of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Cowles Conservatory, some of the Garden’s most beloved art is finding a temporary home. This week three favorites make their debut in Gold Medal Park, in downtown Minneapolis just adjacent the Guthrie Theater: Brower Hatcher’s Prophecy of the Ancients (1988), Mark di Suvero’s Molecule […]

goldmedal In preparation for the renovation of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Cowles Conservatory, some of the Garden’s most beloved art is finding a temporary home. This week three favorites make their debut in Gold Medal Park, in downtown Minneapolis just adjacent the Guthrie Theater: Brower Hatcher’s Prophecy of the Ancients (1988), Mark di Suvero’s Molecule (1977–1983), and Tony Cragg’s Ordovician Pore (1989).

Other works from the Garden have already gone into storage, but additional sculptures will be moving to guest venues this fall. Jacques Lipchitz’s Prometheus Strangling the Vulture II (1944/1953) will be on view at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and Frank Gehry’s Standing Glass Fish (1986) will find a home in the Gehry-designed Weisman Art Museum on the University of Minnesota campus in early winter of 2015. The iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry (1985–1988) by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen will remain on view in the Garden until spring 2016, when full construction begins, as will Richard Serra’s Five Plates, Two Poles (1971) and Sol LeWitt’s X with Columns (1996). The sculpture garden improvements are part of a broader plan to renovate and unify the entire 19-acre Walker campus, an ambitious project that involves the construction of a new entry pavilion for the Walker, a new green space on the Walker hillside, and the greening of Hennepin Avenue.

Walker Director Olga Viso captured these shots of works by Hatcher and di Suvero in their new environs:

Molecule-GoldMedal hatcher-goldmedal

Walker Registrar Joe King took these snaps of Prophecy of the Ancients’ move, while our friends at the Guthrie posted a quick video of Molecule arriving at its new home.

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Learn more about progress on the Walker/Minneapolis Sculpture Garden renovation project.

In 1976, a Dystopian River and Inflatable “Plumes of Fire”

American muralist Terry Schoonhoven was commissioned by the Walker Art Center to create his mural No River Wall Painting for the 1976 exhibition The River: Images of the Mississippi. It loomed large—24 by 35 feet—and foreboding in the Walker’s outer lobby, depicting the riverfront as dystopian industrial district, going to rack and ruin in mounding […]

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Trevor Schoonhoven, No River Wall Painting, 1976

American muralist Terry Schoonhoven was commissioned by the Walker Art Center to create his mural No River Wall Painting for the 1976 exhibition The River: Images of the Mississippi. It loomed large—24 by 35 feet—and foreboding in the Walker’s outer lobby, depicting the riverfront as dystopian industrial district, going to rack and ruin in mounding decay, a parched riverbed supporting barges going nowhere and tipped oil drums lodged in the scorched silt. Meanwhile, just off in the distance, gleaming new city buildings emerge—reaching up and away from the riverfront and the industry of the past.

It must have been an eerie experience gazing upon this almost-life size view of the “Mighty Mississippi” looking so miserable. Schoonhoven and The Fine Arts Squad, which he co-founded, had a knack for creating fantasy environments which enticed the viewer with their potential reality. The riverbed depicted here is a scene from a dark dream but one that must have resonated at the time, as environmental concerns were fueling a rapidly growing ecology movement in the 1970s.

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Schoonhoven sketch

In this preliminary sketch, also included in the exhibition, Schoonhoven includes these notes: “Dry river view. Sky cool and metallic. Looks like it’s imported from another planet. Mississippi river bed cracked, features similar to area around Badwater in Death Valley. Evidence of drifting land, sand flats. Clear brilliant light. The Los Angeles river would feel right at home here.”

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Schoonhoven preliminary sketch

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Terry Schoonhoven working on No River Wall Painting in the Walker lobby, 1976

Another highlight of The River exhibition, albeit brief, was Otto Piene’s Black Stacks Helium Sculpture. It was commissioned by the Walker and installed on October 30, 1976, at the Northern States Power (NSP) South East Steam Plant (located at S.E. Main Street and 6th Avenue).

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Otto Piene

Otto Piene, then director of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was on hand for the installation of this work of “Sky Art,” a term he coined in 1969 and which allowed him to use landscape and cities themselves as the focal point of his work.

The entire installation process of the four 300-foot-long red helium-filled balloons was estimated at three to five hours. The streamers, three feet in diameter, were to be pumped up every two days for as long as they would last, an expected two weeks.

1976 Helium Stacks install_001

Lisa Lyons, a Walker assistant curator at the time, recalls a meeting with then-Walker director Martin Friedman and officials at NSP about using the stacks: “After looking at Otto’s preliminary drawings, they were concerned that the big red balloons issuing from the top of the disused stacks would call to mind smoke and pollution. But ultimately, they signed on, and the piece was installed without a hitch, until, that is, someone took aim at it.”

Originally scheduled to be on view through November 13, vandals shot three of the four streamers full of holes within the first days of the installation. The work was not reinstalled.

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Article from the Minneapolis Tribune, November 1, 1976

“An inflatable sculpture that was installed Saturday on the smokestacks of a power plant had been shot full of holes by vandals by Sunday afternoon, according to Walker Art Center spokespersons,” read a news story in the Minneapolis paper. “Of the original four 300-foot-long, red helium-filled balloons only one was floating yesterday from the stacks of the NSP Co. steam plant at Main St. and 16th Ave SE. The work by Otto Piene had been commissioned by the Walker Art Center in conjunction with its exhibit called The River: Images of the Mississippi.”

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Black Stacks Helium Sculpture by Otto Piene

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Black Stacks Helium Sculpture by Otto Piene

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Black Stacks Helium Sculpture by Otto Piene

Martin Friedman, Walker director from 1961 to 1990, described them as abstract plumes of fire.

Opening day cake for the 1976 exhibition, The River: Images of the Mississippi

The exhibition ran from October 3, 1976 to June 9, 1977. And of course, there was a cake for the opening.

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An issue of Design Quarterly was dedicated to the exhibition

Mickey Friedman wrote in the exhibition’s catalogue:

“River imagery is explored in this exhibition as it exists in painting, prints, photography, maps and, indirectly, as it occurs in planning and architecture. Though architecture does not immediately reflect an image of a river, the character and course of the waterway affects the forms and functions of architecture related to it and conversely, future river imagery may be the consequence of architectural proposals made today.”

Her opening paragraph foretold the future. Schoonhoven’s noir-ish view of the riverfront gratefully did not come to pass. Crossing the Stone Arch Bridge today offers a cityscape that took decades to form and was indeed the consequence of conversations and proposals that had begun in the 1970s and ’80s. Instead of warning people away from its banks with mounds of aggregate and earth-moving machines, the river now invites exploration, into its present amenities as well as its stories from the past, and is the “next frontier” in Minneapolis’ nationally known parks system.

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Riverfront 2014 photo by Barb Economon

For more moments from the Walker’s 75 years as a public art center, visit our Walker@75 page.

Jade Mountain Returns

October 3 marked a homecoming, albeit temporary, for a beloved work of art: long part of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ collection, Jade Mountain was installed in the galleries for the October 16 opening of Art at the Center: 75 Years of Walker Collections. Its history with the Walker goes back more than 100 years […]

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Walker and MIA art handlers install Jade Mountain in Art at the Center

October 3 marked a homecoming, albeit temporary, for a beloved work of art: long part of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ collection, Jade Mountain was installed in the galleries for the October 16 opening of Art at the Center: 75 Years of Walker Collections. Its history with the Walker goes back more than 100 years to the museum’s founder, Thomas Barlow Walker.

Jade Mountain Illustrating the Gathering of Scholars at the Lanting Pavillion (1784), carved from light green jade in Qing Dynasty China, chronicles members of an ancient literary society as they celebrate the Spring Purification Festival alongside a stream in Shaoxing. As curators explained on the joint Walker/MIA website ArtsConnectEd: “The scholars engaged in a drinking contest: Wine cups were floated down a small winding creek as the men sat along its banks; whenever a cup stopped, the man closest to the cup was required to empty it and write a poem. In the end, 26 of the participants composed 37 poems. Wang Xizhi was asked to write an introduction to the collection of these poems.” That poem, transcribed by Emperor Ch’ein-lung, appears on Jade Mountain.

The work, the largest jade carving outside of China, was brought to the United States by Herbert Squiers, who served as Secretary of the U. S. Delegation in Peking (Beijing) until 1901. Squiers donated much of his collection of Chinese jade and porcelain to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but after his death in 1912 the remainder was put up for auction. T.B. Walker’s top bid of $4,000 brought the work to Minneapolis. Included in a “time capsule” within Art at the Center, Jade Mountain is presented in front of a photographic reproduction of Walker’s mansion, where the the 640-pound sculpture is visible on a table. The work was part of Walker’s collection through his death in 1928, his gallery’s reopening as a public art center in 1940, and throughout much of the Walker Art Center’s modern history. In 1976 Jade Mountain went on long-term loan to the MIA, and over the ensuing decade negotiations led to the permanent transfer of its ownership to the MIA. The MIA generously agreed to lend this spectacular piece for Art at the Center in commemoration of the Walker’s 75th anniversary as a public art center. It will remain on view here until March 29, 2015.

 

Myron Kunin: A Tribute

While the Walker prepares to host a dialogue with director Steve McQueen as part of the Dialogues and Film Retrospectives series, it also marks the passing of one of the series’ greatest patrons. Myron Kunin, founder of Regis Corp., died last week, leaving behind a remarkable legacy of contribution to art in the Twin Cities. […]

A selection of the filmmakers who have taken part in the Dialogues and Film Retrospectives series at the Walker. Top, left to right: Claire Denis, Julian Schnabel, Frederick Wiseman, Ang Lee, Steve McQueen Middle, left to right: Miloš Forman, Jessica Lange, Noah Baumbach, Stan Brakhage, Apichatpong 'Joe' Weerasethakul Bottom, left to right: Agnieszka Holland, Abbas Kiarostami, Spike Lee, Kelly Reichardt, Agnès Varda

A selection of the filmmakers who have taken part in the Dialogues and Film Retrospectives series at the Walker.
Top, left to right: Claire Denis, Julian Schnabel, Frederick Wiseman, Ang Lee, Steve McQueen
Middle, left to right: Miloš Forman, Jessica Lange, Noah Baumbach, Stan Brakhage, Apichatpong ‘Joe’ Weerasethakul
Bottom, left to right: Agnieszka Holland, Abbas Kiarostami, Spike Lee, Kelly Reichardt, Agnès Varda

While the Walker prepares to host a dialogue with director Steve McQueen as part of the Dialogues and Film Retrospectives series, it also marks the passing of one of the series’ greatest patrons. Myron Kunin, founder of Regis Corp., died last week, leaving behind a remarkable legacy of contribution to art in the Twin Cities. In addition to funding the Walker’s film dialogue and retrospective series for almost two decades, Kunin served as a board chairman and life trustee of the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA), sponsored the Northern Clay Center, and helped fund the University of Minnesota’s Regis Center for the Arts. An avid collector, he also amassed a notable collection of early 20th century American art, including paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe, Stuart Davis, and Andrew Wyeth. Two hundred and thirty artworks from Kunin’s collection are included in his gifts to the MIA.

A conversation between Clint Eastwood and Richard Schickel launched the Walker’s Dialogues and Film Retrospective series in 1990, with support from the MacArthur Foundation. Kunin’s Regis Foundation took over funding in 1994, and Kunin has sponsored the series up to the present. Thanks to 19 years of generous support from Kunin and his wife, Anita, the Walker has presented conversations with over forty directors, artists, auteurs, and screen actors, including Claire Denis, Ang Lee, Béla Tarr, and Matthew Barney. The series has provided a space for some of the leading filmmakers of our time to discuss their creative processes, influences, and works as well as premiering and previewing dozens of contemporary films. Most recently, the Walker hosted the regional premier of Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, and the accompanying dialogue between McQueen and MoMA curator Stuart Comer will be held on November 9. “Appreciation of Myron’s longstanding support of this dialogue series, which allowed us to share the world’s greatest filmmakers with our community for nearly 20 years, is deeply felt by all of us,” said Sheryl Mousley, the Walker’s senior curator of film and video.

Kunin’s support for film at the Walker and for the broader Twin Cities arts community has made a profound impact on both institutions and individuals. In the words of the Walker’s executive director Olga Viso, “Mike was fiercely passionate about collecting as well as the power of film to communicate and we will miss that energy and faith here at the Walker.” We extend our condolences to Anita, the entire Kunin family, and their friends. Myron Kunin will be deeply missed.

Scenes from Station to Station in St. Paul

Station to Station, the “polyphonic culture train” spearheaded by artist Doug Aitken, made its way to St. Paul Thursday night. While the locomotive itself was nowhere to be seen — it was parked at Midway Station — a train of artists made its way to the stage and throughout the expansive station. Four yurts outside […]

A peek inside Kenneth Anger's yurt, where Anger's Lucifer Rising was screening.

A peek inside Kenneth Anger’s yurt, where Anger’s Lucifer Rising was screening. All photos by Paul Schmelzer

Station to Station, the “polyphonic culture train” spearheaded by artist Doug Aitken, made its way to St. Paul Thursday night. While the locomotive itself was nowhere to be seen — it was parked at Midway Station — a train of artists made its way to the stage and throughout the expansive station. Four yurts outside greeted around a thousand visitors, while inside, art, drink, and music were the fare. Here’s a look — including a clip of Patti Smith’s headlining performance — of what you missed.

Linking the Walker's Fritz Haeg exhibition with Station to Station, the BodyCartography Project performed with yields from Haeg's gardens in and around the Union Depot.

Linking the Walker’s Fritz Haeg exhibition with Station to Station, the BodyCartography Project performed with yields from Haeg’s gardens in and around the Union Depot.

Minneapolis-based artist Kate Casanova with American FWKErj, a Pacer with mushrooms growing from its upholstered seats

Minneapolis-based artist Kate Casanova with Vivarium Americana, a 1976 AMC Pacer she turned into a terrarium that grows oyster mushrooms from the upholstery.

Juliette Brungs, dancer/choreographer Patrick Scully, and BodyCartography Project founders Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad.

Juliette Brungs, dancer/choreogrpher Patrick Scully, and BodyCartography Project founders Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad.

Lawrence Weiner designed flags for each of Station to Station's stops. Here's what he came up with for St. Paul.

Lawrence Weiner designed flags for each of Station to Station’s stops. Here’s what he came up with for St. Paul.

Ariel Pink, who later performed on the Station to Station stage.

Ariel Pink, who later performed on the Station to Station stage.

Vendors included The Beez Kneez, a Minneapolis-based honey producer, which delivers its wares on bikes. Pictured, Kristy Lynn Allen.

Vendors included The Beez Kneez, a Minneapolis-based honey producer that delivers its wares via bicycle. Pictured: Kristy Lynn Allen.

Inside the yurt designed by Ernesto Neto.

Inside the yurt designed by Ernesto Neto.

Minneapolis' Mark Mallman, prior to joining Patti Smith and her son Jackson on stage. “I didn’t get their names,” Smith said of her local bandmates, which included Mallman and Gary Louris.

Minneapolis’ Mark Mallman, prior to joining Patti Smith and her son Jackson on stage. “I didn’t get their names,” Smith said of her local bandmates, which included Mallman and Gary Louris.

No Age's Randy Randall playing guitar with a drumstick.

No Age’s Randy Randall playing guitar with a drumstick.

Chicago's White Mystery, the brother/sister team of  Miss Alex White and Francis Scott Key White.

Chicago’s White Mystery, the brother/sister team of Miss Alex White and Francis Scott Key White.

Patti Smith, performing a powerful cover of Neil Young's "It's a Dream."

Patti Smith’s powerful lo-fi performance included a cover of Neil Young’s “It’s a Dream” (see video below).

Patt Smith at Union Depot, St. Paul from Eyeteeth on Vimeo.

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