Blogs Centerpoints Around the Twin Cities

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.

Culture and Nature: Station to Station’s Video Portrait of Minneapolis/St. Paul

Next month, a nine-car train departs from New York bound for Oakland. Dubbed a “nomadic happening,” the train will be part traveling fun show, part kinetic art project, and part broadcast beacon, beaming ideas about art, music, and culture around the world. The brainchild of artist Doug Aitken, Station to Station is making a stop […]

Next month, a nine-car train departs from New York bound for Oakland. Dubbed a “nomadic happening,” the train will be part traveling fun show, part kinetic art project, and part broadcast beacon, beaming ideas about art, music, and culture around the world. The brainchild of artist Doug Aitken, Station to Station is making a stop at St. Paul’s Union Depot September 12, for a night of art, music, and film benefiting the Walker. In a multimedia essay, Wired’s Clive Thompson writes of Aitken’s goal for the project:

To make art that’s simultaneously physical and virtual, local and global, broadcast using a mashup of the Internet and one of the oldest networks in the US, the steel rails. If Song1 was liquid architecture, this is practically a plasma. “We’re living in a new topography,” Aitken says. “Is it possible to be everywhere and nowhere?”

But while placelessness — being everywhere and nowhere — is part of the aim, so is rootedness. In anticipation of this epic rail ride, the team behind Station to Station is producing video portraits of the cities hosting the train’s stops. Released today is the Minneapolis/St. Paul edition, featuring footage of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, the Walker galleries, and Rock the Garden 2013, as well as an interview with Walker executive director Olga Viso, who explains the unique nature-meets-culture identity of the Twin Cities.

“People belief things are possible, and that’s a fertile place for art to really flourish,” says Viso. “There’s a great love of doing things collectively. There’s  a strong sense of communal pride, this wanting to come together and gather, and to make things happen. And obviously music and art are central to what makes people come together and appreciate both culture and nature.”

Tom Crosby: A Tribute

It’s fair to say the Walker–and, indeed, downtown Minneapolis–might not look the way it does today without the influence of Tom Crosby, who passed away Sunday at age 74 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. A board member for 45 years, Crosby was close advisor to three Walker directors, served as president of the board […]

Roger Hale (currently an Honorary Trustee), Martin Friedman (currently Director Emeritus), Justin V. Smith (a Walker family member and former president of the T.B. Walker Foundation), Walter Walker (a Walker family member and the late husband to current board member Elaine), and Tom Crosby, with paperwork making the Walker a truly public institution, 1976. Photo: Walker Art Center Archives

Roger Hale (currently an honorary trustee), Martin Friedman (director emeritus), Justin V. Smith (a Walker family member and former president of the T.B. Walker Foundation), Walter Walker (a Walker family member and the late husband to current board member Elaine), and Tom Crosby, with paperwork making the Walker a truly public institution, July 30, 1976. Photo: Walker Art Center Archives

It’s fair to say the Walker–and, indeed, downtown Minneapolis–might not look the way it does today without the influence of Tom Crosby, who passed away Sunday at age 74 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. A board member for 45 years, Crosby was close advisor to three Walker directors, served as president of the board of trustees at key moments in the Walker’s history, and contributed, with his wife Ellie, generously to help the Walker realize some of its most important projects, from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in 1988 to the Herzog & de Meuron expansion in 2005, the 2012 exhibition Lifelike to our current project restoring the building’s façade, to name but a few. Throughout nearly five decades, Crosby was at the center of many of the Walker’s biggest moments.

The great grandson of John Crosby, a founder of General Mills Corporation, Crosby specialized in real estate law, becoming a partner, and later managing partner, at Faegre & Benson (now Faegre Baker Daniels). He joined the Walker board of trustees in 1967 and quickly grew close to then-director Martin Friedman. He was president of the board in 1976 when the T.B. Walker Foundation agreed to transfer $27 million to the Walker Art Center, an important moment that brought more community members into Walker governance, making the institution a fully public museum.

The Crosby family’s generous giving to the Walker’s Annual Fund helped make recent exhibitions–including Sol LeWitt:  2D+3D and 1964–possible, and the couple’s gifts of artwork–including Ellsworth Kelly’s 2001 lithograph Dark Blue–have bolstered the Walker’s collection (this summer the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden will see the installation of a new sculpture, the conceptual work, For Whom, by Kris Martin, which the Crosbys and other Walker board members purchased on the Walker’s behalf and in honor of Friedman). And in coming years, it will help reinvent the Walker’s four-acre green space, host to Rock the Garden and Open Field. Active since his first moments with the Walker, Crosby served as chair of a range of committees over the years–from Government Relations to the Park Board–as well as serving as president, vice president, and chair of the Walker board. He also ensured the solid legal counsel of his firm.

The neighborhoods abutting the Walker and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden have also been transformed with Crosby’s help. Active in downtown commercial real estate, Crosby was involved with the acquisition, financing, and disposition of major Twin Cities properties such as the IDS Center, Baker Center, and Minneapolis City Center. He also served on the board of directors of Oxford Development Group Limited, a real estate developer with major downtown projects in several Canadian cities and in the Twin Cities, Denver, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

Crosby’s civic enthusiasm extended to other organizations and municipalities where he shared his passions and skills. The mayor of Medina just prior to his death, and a past city council member there, he served on the boards of Greater Twin Cities United Way, The Minnesota Orchestral Association,  The Blake School, and Abbott-Northwestern Hospital, among others.

But it’s Crosby’s personal counsel, on issues of varying degrees of magnitude, that will most be missed by those of us who knew him through the Walker.

“Tom was always the voice of calm and reason, even in the most difficult situations,” notes Olga Viso, executive director of the Walker. “I so appreciated how his mind worked–his probing questions, how he could parse and dissect the relevant issues, and the way he always kept the highest possible end goal and aspiration in mind. He was absolutely brilliant at finding solutions that worked for everyone, and he was especially savvy at finding ways to confidently realize challenging artistic projects in public space, even if they might at times test the bounds of state or city ordinances!”

“During my first weekend living in Minneapolis, Tom and his wife Ellie invited me to their home,” she recalls. “I will never forget the subzero temps that Sunday morning in January as they took me on a hay ride around their gorgeous property.  While I at first thought that he might be testing my fortitude in those first days as director, I knew when he and Ellie handed me a pair of wool mittens with warmers inside that he would be a great friend and partner.”

The Walker’s past directors concur. “Tom was always at your side when you needed him, personally and professionally,” says emeritus director Friedman. “He was devoted to the Walker and saw us through many a crisis. He is irreplaceable.”

“Tom was two things which are becoming increasingly rare: a great citizen and a thoughtful friend,” says Kathy Halbreich, Walker director from 1991 to 2007 (now associate director at the Museum of Modern Art). “He just had a natural gift for knowing the right set of questions regardless of whatever the dilemma. He never panicked and always answered with what I initially thought was common sense and came to understand was wisdom delivered without pride.”

She recalls an incident when a conservative group had singled out books for sale in the Walker Shop as pornography. “His response was to ask where else the books were sold which, after a couple ofhours of research, turned out to be quite a comprehensive list including the Harvard co-op,” she recalls. “Tom and Ellie even got me to go camping. Once. Good friend, great guide, indispensable civic leader. Both Walker and I are in his debt.”

We extend our sympathies to Ellie and the entire Crosby family, their friends, and all those touched by Tom Crosby’s remarkable life. He will be missed.

 

“Vote No”: A Walker Family Photo

The Walker has been vocal about its opposition to a constitutional amendment on the Minnesota ballot today that would restrict the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. We join more than 120 other nonprofit cultural organizations across that state that are taking this stand. As executive director Olga Viso wrote back […]

Walker staff and friends pose for a “Vote No” family photo on Election Day. Photo: Gene Pittman

The Walker has been vocal about its opposition to a constitutional amendment on the Minnesota ballot today that would restrict the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. We join more than 120 other nonprofit cultural organizations across that state that are taking this stand. As executive director Olga Viso wrote back in May:

“We affirm that love is love, and that the Minnesota Constitution—a document created to define rights instead of impose restrictions—should not be amended to make value judgments about love… But beyond that, we realize that creative communities like ours thrive when we can all be ourselves. The immensely talented people we work with include many who are gay and lesbian, and we support them and see them as friends and equals. We also recognize that the healthiest creative climates are open to all. To foster creativity, to attract artists and audiences, and to grow the state’s economy during difficult times, we believe we must be welcoming to all, regardless of the gender of their loved ones.”

This morning, we visually reiterated these values. We turned over the lawn beside our building to 100 or more “Vote No” signs–provided by staff, friends, neighbors, and the Minnesotans United for All Families campaign–to give those who pass through our busy intersection a bold reminder of where we stand (and a colorful reminder to get out and vote). Then we invited staff and members of the community–not to mention a wandering Gandalf carrying a “You Shall Not Pass” marriage amendment sign–to join us for a “Vote No” family photo. Despite blustery weather, several dozen people showed up from all Walker departments, the neighborhood, and beyond.

Update 11.07.12: We’re pleased to report that the marriage amendment–along with the voter ID amendment–were defeated by Minnesota voters Tuesday.

Nate Solas, the Walker’s head technologist, came in on his day off to share Minnesota-shaped “Vote No” cookies he and his daughter Isla made:

Digital marketing associate Kristina Fong and artist  Sam Gould of Red76 give the constitutional amendment the thumbs down:

Walker director Olga Viso, who wrote that the Walker believes the amendment is “an unnecessary measure, but also one that would make our state a less welcoming place.”

Walker performing arts intern Anat Shinar, with husband Sam Baker and daughter Miri, braved the winds…

…and later posed with Sheila Smith (at left below) of Minnesota Citizens for the Arts:

Michèle Steinwald, assistant curator of performing arts, couldn’t make the photo: she took the day off to doorknock for Minnesotans United. But she and her neighbors in the Kingfield neighborhood,  Robert Litvak and Chris McGrath, sent in a photo in solidarity.

Photo: Robert Litvak

Following our photo shoot, “Gandalf”–aka Adam Sharp–continued canvassing Hennepin Avenue for at least two hours:

We’d like to thank all those who came by for the photo, all those who dropped off signs in our front yard, and–most importantly–all those who vote against this constitutional amendment.

More photos from the morning:

The Walker’s Kathleen McLean, Nate and Isla Solas, Greg Beckel, Anat Shinar and Miri

Mike Jones of Gather by D’amico

All photos by Paul Schmelzer unless otherwise noted.

 

From the Archives: Vintage Makeover Ideas for a Downtown Thoroughfare

“Hennepin facelift a tough problem.” That 1970 headline from the Minneapolis Star still has relevance today, as a new vision takes shape to revitalize the city’s legendary Hennepin Avenue—or more precisely, its two-mile segment downtown, running between the Mississippi River and the Walker Art Center/Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Back in April, I wrote about Plan-It Hennepin, […]

Hennepin Avenue in 1973. Photo: The National Archives

“Hennepin facelift a tough problem.” That 1970 headline from the Minneapolis Star still has relevance today, as a new vision takes shape to revitalize the city’s legendary Hennepin Avenue—or more precisely, its two-mile segment downtown, running between the Mississippi River and the Walker Art Center/Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Back in April, I wrote about Plan-It Hennepin, an initiative in which the Walker has partnered with Hennepin Theatre Trust, Artspace, and the City of Minneapolis; after a year gathering research and community input, the group’s draft plan for a Hennepin Cultural District has just been released for further public comment.

As a fixture on Hennepin from its earliest days, the Walker, not surprisingly, has historically had an interest in its vitality; what follows are outtakes from its coverage of some of those efforts in Design Quarterly, a magazine it published from 1954 to 1991.

1982 “Design Quarterly” magazine cover featuring Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown’s plan for Hennepin.

In 1879, T.B. Walker founded the first public gallery west of the Mississippi, putting works from his vast art collection on view to the public in select rooms of his mansion at Eighth and Hennepin. He also owned a building at 719 Hennepin that housed studios for the Minneapolis Art School. More than 20 years later, the lumber magnate sounded off against the contested development of Gateway Park along downtown Hennepin’s northern blocks—perhaps the earliest effort to revive an area in need, as many saw it, of a cleanup. As Joanna Baymiller noted in “History of an Avenue,” published in 1982 in Design Quarterly No. 117, Walker explained his views in a pamphlet: instead of creating a more attractive view, he declared that “the park will make one pertaining more to bleakness, surrounded by secondary architecture which, under the circumstances, never will be reconstructed or rebuilt into important structures.”

Walker was both passionate and prescient: Even if bleakness and secondary architecture didn’t come with Gateway Park, they did accompany its demolition in the mid-60s as part of “urban renewal” efforts.

Ideas from “Ground-Breaking Mind-Stretchers”

In April, 1970, not long after the blight was cleared, a two-day public forum convened in downtown Minneapolis to brainstorm ways to help out the down-on-its-luck thoroughfare. Organized by the Walker, the Minneapolis Planning and Development Department, and the Minneapolis Downtown Council, “Hennepin: The Future of an Avenue” brought together a host of visiting designers, architects, sculptors, and artists—or “ground-breaking mind-stretchers,” as Minneapolis Star columnist Daniel M. Upham  wryly described them, “untrammeled by the need to hang around to see how it all comes out.”

Upham, author of the column accompanying that “facelift” headline, was one of several journalists covering the standing-room-only events for Minneapolis’ two daily papers; later that year a selection of news clips and photos was compiled for a special section in Design Quarterly No. 78/79 (an issue otherwise devoted to “conceptual architecture,” conceptualism then being sufficiently new to require quotes).

opening page from Design Quarterly’s special section on Hennepin Avenue, 1970

Philip Johnson, architect of the IDS Center then under construction a block away on Nicollet Mall, recommended that “Hennepin fill its teeth” (i.e. its empty blocks) with prefab buildings that could feature “stores, exhibit halls, shooting galleries or whatever draws a crowd,” reported the Minneapolis Star’s Barbara Flanagan. (She could have been referencing the Rifle Sport arcade, which in the later ’70s became the legendary Rifle Sport Gallery on Block E, a small slice of Hennepin both loved and hated for its notorious seediness.) Johnson also reportedly proposed that the historic Butler Building become a teen center, with rock bands on each floor. Never mind that the Butler actually stands a block west of Hennepin, on First Avenue. Also, it was unlikely that Johnson knew that just a block from the Butler, The Depot—a bus station-turned-nightclub later to be named First Avenue—had just opened a few weeks earlier. Nevertheless, his idea was ahead of its time in the worst way, presaging the string of ill-conceived entertainment/mall developments—Mississippi Live in particular comes to mind—that downtown would get saddled with in the coming decades.

A “video park” proposal from landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg was forward-thinking, both artistically and in terms of the growth of public surveillance: “Take a parking lot next to the blank wall of a big building. Mount TV cameras in trailers to photograph passers-by and throw their images on the wall, which becomes a giant TV screen. Interspersed with the passing scene would be the regular pickup of news programs—such as the moon shot (or a baseball game)—anything that draws a crowd.” (Freidberg went on to design the 1975 Peavey Plaza, another Nicollet Mall landmark that is currently the subject of a battle between preservationists and the city.)

Another architect who recently made news with his retirement, Robert Venturi in 1970 hadn’t yet co-authored the controversial classic, Learning from Las Vegas. But its ideas were very much in evidence with Venturi’s audacious claim that Hennepin is “almost all right now.” He nixed benches as too European—reportedly telling the forum crowd “Here if you sit on a bench you’re a bum”—but recommended bigger signs. Columnist Flanagan, however, took issue with his recommendation to “discover the ordinary”: “I have and that’s why I think Hennepin needs work,” she wrote. “It’s too ordinary for an entertainment street.”

Anticipating the coming age of “interactive” public art, James Seawright proposed “an electronic sculpture that could be programmed to relate to the passersby or be rigged to respond to a dialed telephone number. Like fellow sculptor Tony Smith, he also pitched wider sidewalks and mid-block shopping squares. In splitting up Hennepin into five sections for “different kinds of celebrations,” architect Walter A. Netsch (designer of the Air Force Academy Chapel) gets props for the oddest idea. He would assign movies and light shows their own sections, with a third for “the tassel trade”; the remaining two might be devoted to tree plantings and—in a nod to one of the forum organizers—the Walker Art Center. He also thought banning cars from dusk to 5 am might help draw people.

Female Trouble

Speaking of the tassel trade, Art Seidenbaum, the forum’s moderator and a Los Angeles Times columnist, alluded to Hennepin’s long history with strip clubs and streetwalkers in summing up its plight: “Hennepin isn’t voluptuous enough to be seductive and it isn’t wrinkled enough to be replaced—just like a 45-year-old courtesan.” The Star’s Upham was thinking along similar lines: “The real problem of Hennepin … is to save it from blight without destroying its bawdy charm,” he wrote. “The factor which attracts the visiting stockmen, the boys in town for the sales meeting, and other free spenders? [sic] When the chips—or rather the shoulder-straps—are down, can a stripper really do her stuff if they air out the joint and sweep the floor?” Then there was Johnson’s pithy and au courant declaration, “What killed Hennepin was TV and the pill”; and Ms. Flanagan’s equally telling description of designer Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, the lone female guest at the forums, as “a little girl who designs big signs.” For the record, Solomon, a pioneer of Supergraphics, favored large, boldly colored swaths of paints as a low-cost temporary spruce-up for the avenue.

The second page of the 6-page section, with photos by Andrew Power

By 1982, Hennepin had gone further downhill, from aging courtesan to ailing spinster, if you will. In Design Quarterly 117 editor and former Walker design curator Mildred Friedman wrote about how the street “took on the air of a jilted lover” with the rise of the suburbs in the 1950s, existing “in this state of ambiguity for many years,” with “many empty storefronts; former movie palaces converted into evangelical centers or … dispensers of pornography; strip joints and stand-up bars.” Civically speaking, Hennepin was “always the bridesmaid”: a place “discussed in committees” but whose problems “never met with concerted action.”

Friedman also noted “positive changes,” however, in the form of a new Hennepin Avenue Urban Design Plan, to which that issue of DQ was devoted. Denise Scott Brown, writing on the plan created by her firm, Venturi, Rauch, and Scott Brown, made a playful reference to the inevitable “pressure … to exchange the red silk petticoat image of Hennepin Avenue for a gray flannel one.” Considering what her partner Venturi advocated for back in 1970, it probably surprised no one that the firm favored Hennepin as a good-time girl over any kind of reputable matron makeover. However, their plan’s central visual element—36 “reflector trees” arching over the street to create a dance of lights at nighttime, per the rendering above—met with controversy.

“Reflector Trees” sketch from Design Quarterly No. 117

The “trees” were actually to have a “fan-like silhouette,” one “carefully disciplined so as not to suggest overhanging branches,” a muddled-yet-dazzling gesture meant to give the street a “unique character” and “help provide an attractive environment”—even though Scott Brown acknowledged that “entertainment will never be the predominant use on Hennepin again.” In that same issue of Design Quarterly, “An Opposing View” of the plan, written by a special committee of the Minneapolis Arts Commission, took issue with the trees’ “overwhelming scale.” More significantly, the committee suggested that this single, showy design element would bear too much “responsibility for attracting the essence of an entertainment district, that is the business activities.”

Hennepin Avenue, 1985 (BRW Architects, image courtesy Hennepin County Library’s Minneapolis Photo Collection)

Those reflector trees never did debut, and six years later Hennepin’s Block E was finally razed. Even sitting as a parking lot for more than 10 years, it remained a flashpoint for the persistent woes along the avenue. The mall that eventually filled the space and is now left for dead is but one reason why the “Hennepin facelift a tough problem” headline still applies today.

The jury’s still out on the fresh set of prescriptions for a Hennepin Cultural District, as envisioned by the Plan-It Hennepin initiative. But compared with the host of plans, proposals, and ideas from past decades, a couple factors could make a considerable difference going forward. One is that the District so far avoids any expensive investment in grand visual gestures like reflector trees. Another is the role of artists. In 1982, they were reduced to forming a “special committee” so they could object to a plan they had no role and no stake in. Plan-It Hennepin has included artists in the planning process from the start, thanks partly to a “Creative Placemaking” grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Come to think of it, maybe the arts could play a role in creating a fresh, 21st-century female archetype for a transformed Hennepin—an update on its longstanding, troubled, lady-of-the-evening image. Proposals, anyone?

From the Archives: A tribute to Louise Walker McCannel (1915 – 2012)

Louise Walker McCannel, granddaughter of Walker founder Thomas Barlow Walker, played a critical role in the history of the Walker: both the private Walker Art Galleries and the public Walker Art Center. After graduating from Smith College in 1937, where she earned a degree in Fine Arts, Louise and her brother, Hudson, became the caretakers […]

Louise Walker McCannel, granddaughter of Walker founder Thomas Barlow Walker, played a critical role in the history of the Walker: both the private Walker Art Galleries and the public Walker Art Center. After graduating from Smith College in 1937, where she earned a degree in Fine Arts, Louise and her brother, Hudson, became the caretakers of the vast and varied art collection amassed by T.B. Walker. Louise was appointed director of the Walker Art Galleries and while Hudson left for New York in 1938, she stayed to help facilitate the Walker Art Galleries 1939 transition to the Walker Art Center. She worked at the new institution in many capacities: as director of the Children’s Gallery, editor of the Magazine of Art, and assistant curator.

Smith College yearbook photograph, 1937

As curator, she worked on the Walker’s extension program: educational outreach in the form of 36 small exhibitions that circulated throughout the state of Minnesota. These thematic shows—on jewelry, Chinese painting, and Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt, and based on works in the T.B. Walker Collection—used portable panels for easy transport, a format that may seem old fashioned and quaint today, but was a very progressive form of outreach in 1940.

Louise Walker, far left, reviewing installation panels for the exhibition “Egypt, Greece, and Rome,” 1940.

 

“Egypt, Greece and Rome” exhibition panels in transport, 1940 (This photo and photo above: Rolphe Dauphin for Walker Art Center)

McCannel was instrumental in helping the Walker through its early years as an art center, and continued to serve on its board for more than 60 years. She was an active member from 1950 to 1997, and in 1998, after she became an honorary board member, continued to be a staunch supporter.

Louise, foreground, at a board meeting with Alma Walker and Justin Smith, 1950s (Photo: Eric Sutherland for Walker Art Center)

McCannel, in documentarian mode, films the 1969 demolition of the Walker Art Center building, which made way for the 1971 building designed by Edward Larabee Barnes. With her is longtime board member David M. Winton.

  McCannel’s work and her philanthropy extended far beyond the Walker, as well. In a story about her life in the Star Tribune, Walker director emeritus Martin Friedman, who worked with her over several decades, described her as “a fierce, no holds-barred liberal when it came to social causes. She was always on the side of the little guy. She had a great sense of community and was an enemy of anything that smacked of racism. She was really dedicated to making a better world.”

 Read the full Star Tribune story here, and McCannel’s obituary here

Louise Walker McCannel (This photo and photo above: Minneapolis Star Tribune)

 

 

 

 

John Cowles, Jr.: An Appreciation

Sage and John Cowles with Olga Viso at a 2010 benefit for the Cunningham Dance Foundation The Walker, along with the entire cultural community in Minnesota, lost a great friend and an unparalleled champion with the passing of John Cowles, Jr. last Saturday. While I admired his steadfast commitment to the arts, John was also […]


Sage and John Cowles with Olga Viso at a 2010 benefit for the Cunningham Dance Foundation

The Walker, along with the entire cultural community in Minnesota, lost a great friend and an unparalleled champion with the passing of John Cowles, Jr. last Saturday. While I admired his steadfast commitment to the arts, John was also one of the most elegant and inspiring individuals I have had the pleasure of knowing. I was drawn to his probing and inquisitive mind, his generous spirit and intellect, and learned much from his experience and savvy as a passionate and vital community leader. He was never afraid to take risks, and encouraged risk-taking and freethinking in others—a characteristic embodied by his performance in Bill T. Jones’ Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin: The Promised Land in 1990.

John’s adventurous spirit carried over to his role as a longtime Walker Trustee, who with his wife, Sage, made the Cowles Conservatory possible in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. They were also longtime members of the Patrons’ Circle and founding members of the Walker Producers’ Council, which supports our performing arts program. Their gifts to the Walker included support for the 1998 Art Performs Life exhibition, the 2005 expansion to our building, and numerous performances, including the once-in-a-lifetime production of Merce Cunningham and John Cage’s monumental Ocean in 2008.

As a civic leader whose support for the Walker extends back to the early 1970s, John offered counsel and perspective that were of enormous value to me. We will miss him deeply at the Walker, where he and Sage have left many indelible marks that will inspire us for decades. We extend heartfelt condolences to Sage, their children, Jay, Fuller, Tessa, and Jane; his brother Russell and sister Sarah; and extended family and friends.

Rock the Legislature, Preserve the Garden

If you’ve been to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, you’ve probably taken some time to take some pictures like the one above. Did you know that 93 percent of all metro area residents have a picture of themselves at the Spoonbridge and Cherry?* (And probably quite a few of them look something like this.) But here […]

Giant Spoon and Cherry

If you’ve been to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, you’ve probably taken some time to take some pictures like the one above. Did you know that 93 percent of all metro area residents have a picture of themselves at the Spoonbridge and Cherry?* (And probably quite a few of them look something like this.) But here are some snapshots you probably haven’t taken:


This is why the Walker is supporting the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board in its request for $8.5 million in restoration funds from the State Bonding Bill. The funds will allow us to strengthen and repair aging infrastructure, increase energy efficiency, and expand accessibility and safety—preserving this Minnesota icon for future generations.

Here’s an update on the legislation:
Governor Dayton placed the project into his bonding recommendations. The next step in the process is working with both the Senate and House Capital Investment Committees to ensure that they include the Garden in their bills. To that end, Walker and Park Board representatives presented to the Senate Capital Investment Committee this week and now we are asking for you to help!

Visit garden.walkerart.org and click “Take Action” to send an email of support to your legislators, encouraging them to fully fund the renovation project.

For more information on the Garden restoration, read the FAQ and become a fan on Facebook. We will update this blog as the Sculpture Garden funding makes its way through the legislature.  Thank you!

KARE 11 visits the Garden:

* This is not a factual statement, but it’s probably not too far from the truth.

Alec Soth: “I want to photograph your dog”

For Angus, who came into my life from Border Collie Rescue of Minnesota this summer, this is a pretty big deal — appearing on a Walker blog. But it’s nothing compared to what it could be: he could star in a photo by Alec Soth.

For Angus, who came into my life from Border Collie Rescue of Minnesota this summer, this is a pretty big deal — appearing on a Walker blog. But it’s nothing compared to what it could be: he could star in a photo by Alec Soth.

The acclaimed Twin Cities–based photographer (and subject of a Walker solo show last winter) writes that he’d “happily photograph your dog if you are the winning bidder of a portrait session on our eBay Auction page.” But while artistic, the project is also altruistic: He’s donating the proceeds from the auction to his friend, writer, sometimes collaborator and dog lover Brad Zellar, to help cover his “mountain of medical bills.”

Soth reports that Zellar has been suffering from unexplained dizzy spells that have resulted in a fall requiring hospitalization and a battery of neurological tests. Zellar tells me he’d rather not go into his condition — suffice it to say he and doctors still aren’t quite sure what’s going on — but he’s grateful for the generosity of Soth and many others.

Among many other accomplishments, Zellar is the author of Suburban World: The Norling Photos, which features a forward by Soth, and Conductors of the Moving World, published by Soth’s Little Brown Mushroom imprint as a fundraiser for victims of the tsunami and earthquake in Japan earlier this year.

Of course, the winning bidder in Soth’s auction isn’t constrained to dog portraiture, but apparently both his and Zellar’s love of dogs made for a good pitch. I emailed Zellar to ask about Wendell — “a shelter dog as well as a Chilean Dasher, one of only three dog breeds ever to appear on the endangered species list,” he wrote back, I think facetiously (as I don’t see many references online to the breed) — only later to realize he’d already written this sweet ode to his canine pal, whom he puts to bed each night with a vow to again “try like hell to make some new magic” in the morning.

Update: Sorry, Angus, somebody else won the eBay auction — with a bid of $9,100.

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