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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.

Highpoint Center for Printmaking celebrates 10th anniversary with MIA show

Highpoint Center for Printmaking is ten years old this year, and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is helping celebrate the occasion with the exhibition, Highpoint Editions: Decade One. In a video for the show, the MIA interviews master printmaker Cole Rogers, artist Todd Norsten, and executive director Carla McGrath (formerly of the Walker’s Education and Community Programs department), among others, about the center’s growing reputation for international projects that are complex and superbly executed. Also featured, the Julie Mehretu print Entropia, co-published by Highpoint and the Walker in 2004, following her Walker exhibition, Julie Mehretu: Drawing into Painting.

Julie Mehretu, Entropia, 2004

Highpoint Center for Printmaking is ten years old this year, and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is helping celebrate the occasion with the exhibition, Highpoint Editions: Decade One. In a video for the show, the MIA interviews master printmaker Cole Rogers, artist Todd Norsten, and executive director Carla McGrath (formerly of the Walker’s Education and Community Programs department), among others, about the center’s growing reputation for international projects that are complex and superbly executed. Also featured, the Julie Mehretu print Entropia, co-published by Highpoint and the Walker in 2004, following her Walker exhibition, Julie Mehretu: Drawing into Painting. Norsten’s Highpoint piece is similar to one in the Walker collection; the text piece — a screenprint that mimics blue painter’s tape — reads “Ceaseless Endless Timeless Boundless,” whereas the Walker’s piece says, “Ceaseless Boundless Endless Joy.” The sentiment fits the Walker’s wishes for another decade — or ten — of success for our friends at Highpoint.

Gather by D’Amico’s Chef Josh Brown: best tastes of late summer

Coming on the heels of two new reviews for Gather (City Pages, Star Tribune),  this story was originally published in the September/October issue of Walker magazine; it’s accompanied by a recipe for chef Josh Brown’s raw-and-cooked vegetable salad. Besides the not-inconsiderable task of presiding over Gather by D’Amico, the Walker’s new restaurant that launched in June, chef Josh Brown […]

Coming on the heels of two new reviews for Gather (City PagesStar Tribune),  this story was originally published in the September/October issue of Walker magazine; it’s accompanied by a recipe for chef Josh Brown’s raw-and-cooked vegetable salad.

Besides the not-inconsiderable task of presiding over Gather by D’Amico, the Walker’s new restaurant that launched in June, chef Josh Brown has been tending a new vegetable plot at home—his first of any size since he was a kid in rural Montana. “Watching everything growing has definitely been a source of inspiration for Gather,” he says.

Recently he sat down to talk seasonal food and look toward the summer transition into fall. For Brown, tomatoes are “one last end-of-summer hurrah” that, as he points out, can be had until early October. Rather than fuss with this fruit, he prefers to let its sweetness stand out: “I just eat them with salt, pepper, and olive oil, or I make my wife’s favorite dish: pasta with fresh tomatoes, basil, olive oil, garlic, and parmesan. Of course, it only works with excellent tomatoes.” Leeks, another late-summer favorite that the chef enjoys braising and pairing with swordfish, also become available in late summer. As greens like chard and kale come into their own, he uses a simple preparation he picked up from a fellow cook: “Add salt and a pat of butter to boiling water before blanching your greens—the butter sticks to them and they’re delicious served with chicken or beef.”

Given the locally sourced and seasonal focus of Gather, Brown develops new dishes monthly as certain ingredients reach their peak. But the raw and cooked salad endures on the menu—not just because it’s one of his personal favorites, but because its components change depending on what’s freshest. “As summer ends, we’ll be trading out the beans and asparagus, probably with Brussels sprouts and a root vegetable,” he says.

As these items come into season, Brown turns on the oven. “Parsnips, turnips, kohlrabi, beets, and the like are really good as a hash, diced up small and slowroasted,” he says. Kohlrabi in particular, a lesser-known member of the cabbage family, takes him instantly back to that large garden of his childhood. “It has always stood out in my mind—something about the way it grows, watching my mother and grandmother picking it. Food sparks so many vivid memories for me; it’s one of the reasons I love cooking.”

Josh Brown’s Raw & Cooked Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
Serves 2. As Brown notes, this salad can change based on what’s in season, so swap out and add in vegetables — the key is freshness. 

3      sliced asparagus spears, lightly blanched
3 oz   fennel and fennel fronds
2 oz      sliced radish
3 oz   sliced haricot vert, lightly blanched
1 oz    Hong Kong scallion
lemon vinaigrette (see below)
1 oz    ricotta salata
6 slices     soft boiled egg (see below)

Eggs: Cover eggs in cold water in a saucepan; bring to a boil and turn the heat off. Let stand for 7 minutes, then put eggs into an ice bath.

Lemon vinaigrette (makes extra)
1/2 c.      lemon juice
1T        lemon zest
1T       Dijon mustard
2T        minced shallot
1C       extra-virgin olive oil
3T        chopped basil

Mix lemon, zest,Dijon, and shallot in a bowl; whisk in the olive oil, then add basil and season with salt and pepper.

Plate set up: Salt and pepper the eggs and place in triangles on two plates. Toss all vegetables with vinaigrette and place on the plates; top with ricotta salata.

 

 

Images from “1,001 Chairs: An Observance in Honor of Silenced Voices”

Thanks to everyone who contributed their chairs and their presence to this observance on Tuesday.  It turned out to be a visually striking and heartfelt statement in support of artists around  the world who work under oppressive conditions where artistic freedom is compromised, including Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist who in June was released after more […]

Thanks to everyone who contributed their chairs and their presence to this observance on Tuesday. 

It turned out to be a visually striking and heartfelt statement in support of artists around  the world who work under oppressive conditions where artistic freedom is compromised, including Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist who in June was released after more than two months of imprisonment. A chair arrived from Ai Weiwei’s studio in Beijing — a stool the artist uses in his office, see below — to join the assembly of seating inspired by one of Ai’s own monumental artworks.

There’s good commentary about the event at the Eyeteeth blog, and at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, another chair from Ai — his Marble Chair sculpture from 2008 — is currently on view at the entrance to its Asian art galleries. 

  

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nice Ride: Biking to and from the Walker

I recently moved to Minneapolis from Northfield (Cows, Colleges, and Contentment!), forty miles south of the Cities. I’m fortunate enough to have a car, but having had to deal more with cattle crossing than heavy, downtown traffic and confusing one-ways, city traffic can be a little overwhelming. Adding that to the fact that my bike […]

I recently moved to Minneapolis from Northfield (Cows, Colleges, and Contentment!), forty miles south of the Cities. I’m fortunate enough to have a car, but having had to deal more with cattle crossing than heavy, downtown traffic and confusing one-ways, city traffic can be a little overwhelming. Adding that to the fact that my bike is falling apart (that’s what $40 on Craigslist gets you), getting around Minneapolis for work and leisure isn’t always the easiest to do.

I just started interning in the PR/Marketing department at the Walker, about two miles from my apartment. It’s too far to walk, but I feel guilty driving such a short distance (not to mention having to find parking). So what’s a geographically-challenged guy to do?

Three months ago, Minneapolis introduced a new, really unique, really convenient way to get around. The city built 42 bike stations downtown, uptown, everywhere in between, and stocked them with 350 bikes. As of July, it’s been upped to 65 stations with 600 bikes. You can spot the bright green ‘Nice Ride’ bikes pretty much everywhere around the city, in use or parked at busy locations. The Walker has a station right out front, usually stocked with at least a half a dozen bikes. In the morning, I’ll grab one at the Lake & Humboldt station, turn onto Hennepin, and follow that a dozen blocks north to the Walker. It helps not only that drivers in Minneapolis are incredibly bike-aware, but that the cost of a ‘Nice Ride’ is reasonable. $30 gets you a month pass, or $60 for a full year, and every ride under a half hour is free. In all, it beats gas prices by a huge amount.

If the advertising for 'Nice Ride' is representational of their users, most riders sport bow ties, vests, or cardigans

If the advertising for 'Nice Ride' is representational of their users, most riders sport bow ties, vests, or cardigans

Nice Ride also just published their three-month update online (you can find it here), detailing overall usage, revenue, stats, complete with nifty pie charts. Turns out that the Walker is one of the most popular destinations for Nice Riders, many coming from my neighborhood but also from Whittier, downtown, and even as far away as Seward and University. There’s still plenty of comfortable fall days left to check out these bikes. If you’re close, you should definitely grab one and swing by the Walker. It’s hard to beat a day filled with art and biking.

A View from Three Feet Up: Eavesdropping on a Sculpture Garden tour

  Out in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden recently, I tagged along with a gaggle of field-tripping preschoolers from various day care centers in White Bear Lake. Following are outtakes from their spirited debates about the artistic representation of animals in the Garden. Kim, the group’s intrepid tour guide, started the conversation: “What do you think you’ll […]

 

Octopus, lion, giraffe, or spider: Which inspired Mark di Suvero's "Arikidea"?

Out in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden recently, I tagged along with a gaggle of field-tripping preschoolers from various day care centers in White Bear Lake. Following are outtakes from their spirited debates about the artistic representation of animals in the Garden.

Kim, the group’s intrepid tour guide, started the conversation: “What do you think you’ll see in the garden today?”

“I think we’ll see a cherry and spoon,” quipped Bella, 5, showing off copious advance research.

Jake, 4, stated that he had seen some dragonflies in his backyard recently.

“I’m three!” shouted Aiden, 3, before telling everyone to be quiet.

Kim moved the group into the Cowles Conservatory, past the fragrant Madagascar jasmines and New Guinea impatiens and into the exhibit space with Frank Gehry’s Standing Glass Fish. “Can anyone tell me what they think of when they see this sculpture?” she asked.

“It’s flopping its way out,” said Caden, 5.

“He got one tail,” explained George, 2.

“What is this fish made of?” asked Kim.

“Likeable stuff,” answered Zander, 3.

Kim nodded in agreement. She told a story of Gehry’s grandmother, who used to come home from the market with a live fish and let it swim in the bathtub until dinnertime. That’s why Gehry likes to make art look like fish, she explained.

Continuing into the outdoor garden, Kim stopped the group at Deborah Butterfield’s Woodrow. “What do you think this animal is?” she asked.

Hannah was certain it was a giraffe. Multiple votes were cast for a deer. Someone suggested it was a moose. Kim shook her head. “Any more guesses?”

“It’s a giraffe,” said Aiden.

Kim provided a hint: “It’s something you might find on a ranch or farm.” A debate followed regarding the constitutions of horses and cows. An agreement was reached. Horse.

The group migrated to see Mark di Suvero’s Arikidea, which Kim alleged to be another animal—but what kind?

“It’s an octopus, because it has lots of legs,” said Nick, 6. Caden thought it had a head like a lion. Aiden thought it was a giraffe. Hannah guessed correctly: a spider.

Seven of the children climbed onto Arikidea’s giant platform and got a push on the swing. Joni, the day’s organizer, brought out her camera. Bella instantly flashed a movie-star grin, displaying missing front teeth.

Responding to an inquiry from Aiden, Kim expressed regret over the paucity of elephants in the garden.

“Can we go see a giraffe?” he asked in reply. Kim looked apologetic.

 

Help us preserve your Sculpture Garden! Visit garden.walkerart.org and sign up for the Action E-List to receive e-mail updates (only a couple, we promise) on how you can help at times when it is most needed.

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