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A Day for Detroit: Walker Favorites from the DIA Collection

Many of us at the Walker are disappointed by Monday’s news that Kevyn Orr, emergency manager for the city of Detroit, has contracted with the auction house Christie’s to assess the value of artworks in the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection that might be sold to settle the city’s municipal debts. While such a sale […]

van gogh

Vincent Willem van Gogh, Self-Portrait, 1887

Many of us at the Walker are disappointed by Monday’s news that Kevyn Orr, emergency manager for the city of Detroit, has contracted with the auction house Christie’s to assess the value of artworks in the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection that might be sold to settle the city’s municipal debts. While such a sale is not inevitable, Orr has said he wants all options “on the table” in dealing with Detroit’s bankruptcy. We’re in agreement with the American Association of Art Museum Directors — of which Walker executive director Olga Viso is a member — in opposing such a course of action. “A museum’s collection is held in public trust for current and future generations,” AAMD said in a recent statement. “This is a bedrock principle of the Association of Art Museum Directors and of the museum field as a whole. Art collections are vitally important cultural and educational resources that should never be treated as disposable assets to be liquidated, even in times of economic distress.”

Today we join with more than a dozen art websites in observing A Day for Detroit, spearheaded by Modern Art Notes’ Tyler Green as a way to showcase works in the DIA’s collection that could be threatened by such a sale. Below, favorite DIA artworks as selected by Walker staff, along with a few reflections on the art and the institution that’s given it a home.

“As a prescient City of Detroit purchase, van Gogh’s self-portrait would be among the most vulnerable masterpieces should any sale move forward,” says Andrew Blauvelt, the Walker’s design curator and Chief of Communications and Audience Engagement. “It is one of just a handful of van Gogh’s self-portraits that the public can see in the United States, which, if sold, would likely enter a private collection. One more transfer of wealth from a public trust to private hands.”

Vincent Willem van Gogh, The Diggers

Vincent Willem van Gogh, The Diggers, 1889

Associate registrar Pamela Caserta says a different van Gogh — The Diggers from 1889 — as her favorite piece in the DIA collection. She writes:

“The Detroit Institute of Arts is energized, lively, and essential. The arts could be Detroit’s saving grace, but not if the state sells away one of the city’s most impressive traits. To dismantle Detroit’s most prized collection would be a disservice, not only to the people who live an love Detroit, but to the future of its position as a cultural center, and to the international communities public access to important masterworks. Detroit is already attracting artists who are working to transform its terrain, perhaps around ideas like urban farming, clean energy, and creative expression.”

sargent

John Singer Sargent, Mosquito Nets, 1908

“It’s hard to select just one favorite in the DIA collection, but I’m going old school by Walker standards with John Singer Sargent’s Mosquito Nets. Sargent’s portrait—of what its provenance suggests may be his sisters Emily and Violet—feels a little like Downton Abbey crossed with Minnesota summer,” says Robin Dowden, director of New Media Initiatives.

Bouguereau

William Adolphe Bouguereau, The Nut Gatherers, 1882

Scott Lewis, supervisor of the Walker’s frame shop, has deep ties to Michigan: He grew up in Jackson, went to college near Pontiac, and lived in Detroit for six years, where he and his wife had their first daughter. A great fan of the DIA collection, he points to two “stunners”: Judith and Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi and The Wedding Dance by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. But his favorite painting is The Nut Gatherers by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. “I would make it a point to visit the work every time I went to the DIA, even if for a minute,” he says. “For a long while it hung beside the Farnsworth Entrance beside the Visitor Services desk, a testament to its popularity. Many think the work of Bouguereau is sentimental, but perhaps that’s why I like it. I liked the innocence of the subjects, the brush work, the color and shading – it’s a work of real craft. Later, my wife and I produced two daughters: one blonde and one dark haired.  I’ve felt that The Nut Gatherers was a window to my future.” He notes that his daughters gave him a Father’s Day gift years ago: a photo of the two of them reenacting the image.

Estes

Richard Estes, Blue Cadillac, 1967

Mia Lopez, a curatorial fellow for Visual Arts, often visits family in Detroit. “Whenever we visit, my mother and I love to stop by the DIA. She enjoys photorealism and had an early influence on my taste: Richard Estes is someone we both appreciate.”

Arthur Rothstein, Father and Sons Walking in the Face of a Dust Storm, Cimarron County, Oklahoma, 1936

Arthur Rothstein, Father and Sons Walking in the Face of a Dust Storm, Cimarron County, Oklahoma, 1936

“I enjoy the opposing sensations of getting lost and grounded in the Rothstein photograph,” says Walker photographer Gene Pittman. “The persistence of the subjects to continue on their path in this storm feels like a portrait of Detroit.”

Pietro Radillo, Venetian Contadino, late 19th century

Pietro Radillo, Venetian Contadino, late 19th century

Pittman offers a second pick, from the DIA’s extensive collection of objects and ephemera related to the performing arts. “I want to photograph this face and listen to his story,” he explains. “I want my son to see this puppet and tell me what he is saying.”

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Nocturne in Black and Gold, the Falling Rocket,

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Nocturne in Black and Gold, the Falling Rocket, 1875

“When I finally saw Whistler’s Nocturne in Black and Gold in person last year, I was literally left breathless by its beauty,” shares Sarah Schultz, the Walker’s director of Education and curator of public practice. “That memory will never leave me.”

John Sloan, McSorley's Bar

John Sloan, McSorley’s Bar, 1912

“A beautiful example of John Sloan’s work which captures the street life of New York,” says archivist Jill Vuchetich of her pick. “The work was purchased for DIA directly from the artist in 1924! That’s a wonderful legacy and would be a great loss to DIA.”

Diego Rivera, Detroit Industry, South Wall, 1932-1933

Diego Rivera, Detroit Industry, South Wall (detail), 1932-1933

“Diego Rivera’s stunning Detroit Industry Murals, painted on the north and south walls of the museum, are one of the unquestioned masterpieces at the DIA, that virtually no other US museum can boast,” says Olga Viso, Walker executive director. “Depicting laborers working at the city’s Ford Motor Company River Rouge Plant in the 1930s, Rivera saw and painted the significance of Detroit as a world city. His vision of Detroit in the early 20th century provides not only an important historical record of the city’s past achievements that is paramount to preserve, but also offers an important touchstone from which to consider and imagine its future.”

What are your favorite works from the DIA collection? Share your thoughts in comments, and please consider supporting this valuable cultural institution however you’re able.

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.

 

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.

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. 

  

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support artistic freedom: Help amass 1,001 chairs at the Walker on July 12

  Although authorities released artist Ai Weiwei on June 22, the Walker is moving forward with a planned event on July 12, which would have marked his 100th day of detention. As a message on the Facebook page dedicated to freeing Ai Weiwei puts it, “He may be out of prison, but he is not […]

 

Ai Weiwei portrait courtesy Mary Boone Gallery, New York

Although authorities released artist Ai Weiwei on June 22, the Walker is moving forward with a planned event on July 12, which would have marked his 100th day of detention.

As a message on the Facebook page dedicated to freeing Ai Weiwei puts it, “He may be out of prison, but he is not free. We must remember those who lack the most basic human rights and raise our voices in support of freedom.”

The public is invited to take part in the July 12 event, inspired by one of Ai’s works, Fairytale: 1001 Qing Dynasty Wooden Chairs, as a way to acknowledge both Ai and other artists in China and around the world who work under oppressive conditions where artistic freedom is compromised.

Fairytale is a monumental installation made up of the titular antique chairs (see image below) and was first presented at Documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany in 2007, as one part of an even larger project. In Minneapolis, people can bring a chair or chairs of any type to the Walker’s Open Field lawn on July 12. The goal is to amass 1,001 by 6 p.m (see details below).

“We believe that no artistic voice should ever be silenced in any society,” said Walker executive director Olga Viso.  “We envision the chairs on the Open Field as a reminder of artists across the world—artists we may not even know—who have been lost and who face repression and censorship every day. Weiwei’s art and his recent detainment have brought this reality into disturbing and important focus.”

Ai was detained April 3 by Chinese police at the Beijing airport while en route to Hong Kong. Though Chinese authorities have alleged that Ai is guilty of tax evasion, many in the international community believe the arrest was the government’s response to his politically-charged work and social activism – just as they believe that his release was brought about, at least in part, by international pressure.

Fairytale: 1001 Qing Dynasty Wooden Chairs

Named in 2011 as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world, Ai is a sculptor, architect, installation artist, and filmmaker. He  is perhaps best known in the U.S. for helping conceive the design of the “Bird’s Nest” stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics (he later wrote an op-ed for the Guardian UK titled “Why I’ll stay away from the opening ceremony of the Olympics”). His work has been exhibited in more than a dozen countries; in May, just weeks after his detention, his Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads was installed at New York’s Grand Army Plaza, one of the gateways to Central Park.

PARTICIPATE IN THE EVENT:
Visitors can drop off chairs throughout the day on July 12 and can witness the culmination of the event at 6 p.m., when Viso will make brief remarks. Visitors can collect their chairs between 6:15 and 8 p.m. and unclaimed chairs will be donated to charity. The Walker will offer free gallery admission for the entire day, and galleries will remain open until 6 p.m., an hour past its usual closing time.

What does it take to spiff-up the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden?

  During Minnesota’s 2010 legislative session, the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board—with the full support of the Walker Art Center—made a request to the legislature for funding to restore and preserve the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The project did not make it through the bonding process this year for a variety of reasons, but it did […]

 

During Minnesota’s 2010 legislative session, the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board—with the full support of the Walker Art Center—made a request to the legislature for funding to restore and preserve the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The project did not make it through the bonding process this year for a variety of reasons, but it did draw attention to the need for a renovation of this 22-year-old gem, a centerpiece of the Minneapolis park system. It also stirred up a group of grassroots supporters—both park and art lovers—who sent a clear message to legislators.

So what’s going on with the Sculpture Garden that needs spiffing up? It’s not the sorts of things that make for great photo ops, like brightening the cherry atop Spoonbridge and Cherry with fresh coats of paint, or Windexing the mirrored scales of Frank Gehry’s fish in the Cowles Conservatory.

In fact, the work involved in renovating a landscape or garden is most always quite subtle — less visible or even invisible — but it’s nonetheless important, even crucial. The pictures here zoom in on some of the ways that more than two decades — and the enjoyment of more than 7 million visitors — have taken their toll on the Garden.

For starters, the linden trees in the image at left would be trimmed to open up views and create the kind of experience intended by the original design. Another experience involves what’s underfoot: If you’ve walked around the Garden in the springtime after the snow has melted or after a heavy rain, you’ve probably noticed how muddy and squishy it is. That’s because the green spaces currently lack adequate drainage and the pathways were originally installed with baseball diamond clay. 

A renovation would include a cistern to collect water runoff so the Park Board can keep the Garden watered in a sustainable way, plus pathways would be resurfaced and replaced with porous materials that would dry more quickly. (While the current odds are already negligible, chances of catching an errant baseball are reduced as well.) Other work on the pond and lawns would prevent storm water pollution, improve filtration and reduce off-site drainage and overall water use.

 

Many trees in the Garden, including the arbor vitae "walls" of its four "galleries," are at the end of their natural life cycles.

The same goes for some of the evergreen border trees.

Granite slabs used for paving, walls, and steps need re-setting, replacement or repair.

Existing wheelchair ramps would be made compliant with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (the Garden opened in 1988), with wider clearance and a gentler slope.

Lighting for evening strolls will be brighter and more energy efficient, new emergency call stations will be installed, and the HVAC/mechanical systems in the Cowles Conservatory would be updated, drastically reducing energy use (and operating expenses). And dying or dead trees would be replaced with live, healthy ones. (Hey, why not?)

Even if you’re not a landscape architect, HVAC technician, or soil specialist, you can help restore the Garden by becoming an advocate. We are building our initial group of supporters into a strong, statewide collection of voices who can help by doing a couple easy things — like contacting legislators at times when it will make the biggest impact (we’ll cue you). Find out more here, and  sign up for the Action E-List today.

Sculpture Garden bonding request wrap-up: We’ll be back!

You’ve probably heard the latest by now: although the legislature approved $2 million in bonds to help start a restoration of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Governor Pawlenty line-item vetoed the project from the bill. While the news is obviously very disappointing, we have much to be proud of. This was the first year the Minneapolis […]

You’ve probably heard the latest by now: although the legislature approved $2 million in bonds to help start a restoration of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Governor Pawlenty line-item vetoed the project from the bill.

While the news is obviously very disappointing, we have much to be proud of. This was the first year the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board made a request for Sculpture Garden funding. It often takes multiple attempts for a project to simply make it onto the legislative agenda. The Sculpture Garden made it into the bonding bill on the first try, an affirmation of its status as a beloved Minnesota destination.

We also saw an overwhelming show of support for the Sculpture Garden’s proposed preservation. Literally thousands of Minnesotans rose to the occasion to advocate on behalf of the project.

If you were involved in any way—writing to your legislators, sending a letter to the editor, spreading the word about the project—thank you! Your help has been essential in laying a solid groundwork for future collective efforts and eventual success.

What’s up next:

Through a public-awareness campaign, which will begin unfolding over the next couple of months, we expect to grow our network substantially and ultimately secure the funding we need to restore and preserve the Sculpture Garden.

How you can help:

  • Join the Action E-List.This e-mail list is exclusively devoted to information and calls to action regarding the Sculpture Garden project. You’ll likely receive just three or so e-mails per year, and only at critical junctures where action is needed.
  • Become a part of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden’s Facebook group. Post your favorite pictures, share Garden stories, and keep up on the latest Sculpture Garden news here.
  • Invite your friends to join both of the above.We need a broad representation of folks from around the state who have an affinity for the Sculpture Garden. A successful grassroots effort includes Minnesotans from every legislative district! Use the http://garden.walkerart.org/bonding URL to forward information to your network.

Thanks again for everyone’s efforts to help restore and preserve the Sculpture Garden. We’ll be back! As they say, it’s not over ’til it’s over.

Renovating the Sculpture Garden: NOW is the time to weigh in

I’ve recently started work at the Walker as its grassroots coordinator, advocating for the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board’s legislative bonding request to restore and preserve the 22-year-old Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. (If you have yet to show your support for the project, please visit http://garden.walkerart.org/bonding  to learn more and to write your legislator.) As part […]

I’ve recently started work at the Walker as its grassroots coordinator, advocating for the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board’s legislative bonding request to restore and preserve the 22-year-old Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. (If you have yet to show your support for the project, please visit http://garden.walkerart.org/bonding  to learn more and to write your legislator.) As part of this effort, I’ve been keeping close track of goings-on at the Capitol — which are especially fascinating this year — and also, of course, tracking where the Sculpture Garden bonding request fits within the overall legislative process.

Which bonding projects are being funded?

Bonding projects, in part, are being selected this year because of the jobs they will create both for the project and following its completion, as well as the “shovel readiness” of the effort. The Sculpture Garden renovation is one such project: most of the work would be completed in 2010; it would generate 170 construction and landscaping jobs (90%+ being union labor); and preserve one of Minnesota’s iconic tourist destinations (45% of visitors are tourists, who bring $16 million in direct tourist spending into the economy each year). (Read more details in this previous blog post.)

So, in an effort to get bonding projects underway and get folks back to work as soon as possible, the ordinary legislative process for introducing a bonding bill started quite early, and has been put on a fast track.

What does “fast-track” mean when it comes to the state legislature?

A legislative process that normally takes months is being compressed into just a few weeks—which makes public input and action all the more crucial. This past week was an important one, as both the House and Senate Capital Investment committees submitted their bills. The good news is that the Sculpture Garden renovation is in both bills; the bad news is that the commitments to the project so far are well below what is necessary to preserve our Minnesota landmark. The Sculpture Garden renovation’s full request was $8.5 million; the House and Senate submitted bills with bonding support at $200,000 and $2 million respectively. 

So what happens now?

In the next week a 10-member House-Senate conference committee will be assembled that will likely begin convening on Tuesday, February 16. This conference committee reports back to the floors of both the House and Senate within a couple days with their recommendations on how to reconcile the two proposals. The entire legislature then votes on the bill and sends it to the Governor.

In the end, the process for a bonding bill is like a “Which Way” Book: It’s nearly impossible to predict the outcome. That said, during critical junctures—like the coming weeks—the chances of success at the legislature are increased dramatically when constituents from all over the state weigh in.

Show Your Support!

It’s especially important to make your voice heard—now—regarding the bonding measure to restore the Sculpture Garden. The legislative process is hard, but advocacy is easy.  Write your legislators today! It will only take a minute using our online email tool, but that minute could make all the difference in the bonding approval process. We need to preserve our iconic Minnesota garden with a cherry on top!

 

Calling all Minneapolis Sculpture Garden lovers: Preservation is at hand!

The Minnesota State Legislature is voting in the next few weeks on a bonding measure that could fund a badly needed renovation of the 22-year-old Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The article below, from the upcoming issue of Walker magazine, outlines the details.  Please take action by visiting http://garden.walkerart.org/bonding today. It’s quick, easy and will make all […]

The Minnesota State Legislature is voting in the next few weeks on a bonding measure that could fund a badly needed renovation of the 22-year-old Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The article below, from the upcoming issue of Walker magazine, outlines the details. 

Please take action by visiting http://garden.walkerart.org/bonding today. It’s quick, easy and will make all the difference.

MSG for bonding issue blog postWelcoming more than 7 million visitors since it opened, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden has become an integral part of Twin Cities life. When the Walker and the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board partnered in 1988 to create the first major urban sculpture garden in the country, the vision, still very much alive today, was to combine an amazing outdoor space with world-class art and culture—two assets for which the state is renowned.  

 While Twin Cities and Minnesota residents are regulars, thousands of students and hundreds of schools groups from across Minnesota and the region visit each year. “It’s a unique place for learning,” says Lockie Chapman, a teacher who brings her Orono middle-schoolers to the Garden each year. “My students enjoy seeing works like the Spoonbridge and Cherry, which challenge their definitions of what a sculpture should be.”

And nearly half of the Garden’s visitors are tourists—from the all corners of the United States and far-flung countries alike. That amounts to $16 million in direct annual economic impact, according to Meet Minneapolis, the city’s official convention and visitors association. Melvin Tennant, its president & CEO, calls the Garden “a true destination for visitors to our state.” Walker director Olga Viso adds, “For more than two decades, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden has welcomed visitors into our park system and introduced them to the state’s remarkable arts community. Nearly everyone goes home with their own iconic image snapped in front of the Spoonbridge and Cherry. 

But years of wear and tear have taken their toll on the Garden. To renovate and preserve it, the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, with the wholehearted support of the Walker, is pursuing $8.5 million in state bonding. “Every garden has a natural life cycle, and plants periodically need to be refreshed. For instance, the lifespan of arbor vitae—the trees that create the walls of the outdoor galleries—is about 20 years,” says Park Board superintendant Jon Gurban. “Also, in a place as heavily trafficked as the Garden, significant infrastructure needs must be addressed to maintain this vibrant public space.”

After a careful study, the prominent landscape architecture firm oslund.and.associates has recommended a range of necessary upgrades throughout the 11-acre landscape. Tom Oslund notes that “by taking advantage of efficiency improvements in mechanical systems and lighting in the past 20 years, we can significantly reduce the Garden’s carbon footprint. For instance, an eco-friendly irrigation system would allow us to capture rainwater runoff to maintain the plants. And improvements to the drainage system, as well as repairs to concrete walkways and granite walls, which were not designed with the expectation of millions of visitors, will allow us to preserve the unique experience of visiting the grounds.”

Preserving the Garden is in many respects a cost-saving measure, an idea borne out by comparing its original budget of $16 million—funded by private contributions—to those of newer sculpture gardens in other cities, ranging from the 4.5-acre Pappajohn Sculpture Park in Des Moines ($46 million, 2009) to the 22-acre Kansas City Sculpture Park ($95 million, 2007) to Seattle’s 9-acre Olympic Sculpture Park ($85 million, 2007). The Minnesota legislature is currently considering this bonding measure—if passed, it will ensure that the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden remains a vibrant icon for the state, not to mention a home to the single largest cherry in the country.

Please encourage your state legislator to fund the renovation of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Visit garden.walkerart.org/bonding today to draft and send an e-mail showing your support.

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