Blogs Field Guide

Students of the Open Road: Alec Soth’s Winnebago Workshop

A few weeks ago I found myself in the parking lot behind a small industrial building. It was raining, I was in St. Paul, and I was lost. I knew I was in the right place, though, when I saw a giant RV parked in the corner—even more so when I noticed a cheerful man […]

The pilot program's culminating show. Photo courtesy of Little Brown Mushroom.

The Winnebago Workshop’s culminating show. Photo courtesy Little Brown Mushroom

A few weeks ago I found myself in the parking lot behind a small industrial building. It was raining, I was in St. Paul, and I was lost. I knew I was in the right place, though, when I saw a giant RV parked in the corner—even more so when I noticed a cheerful man waving enthusiastically at me from the window: Alec Soth. The photographer and his studio, Little Brown Mushroom, have been hard at work on a new project called the Winnebago Workshop, an educational program for teens. In the past, Little Brown Mushroom focused primarily on publishing, while dabbling in educational projects through experiments like the Camp For Socially Awkward Storytellers, a program for mid-career artists that serves as the Winnebago Workshop’s spiritual sister.

Winnebago Workshop is a seemingly straightforward concept: a group of young people are invited to take part in a workshop with Soth that focuses on the art of storytelling. The catch? The workshop lasts a week and takes place on a moving RV. What’s more: the RV is traveling to a destination determined by throwing a dart at a map. Oh, and also: the RV picks up teaching artists along the way. The humble Winnebago RV is essential to the success of the project because, as Soth tells me, photography and writing are “so often best when you’re forced into the world and you’re not behind a screen, sitting in your office.” As he puts it, Winnebago Workshop strives to “give that experience so it’s not in a classroom, it’s out in the world.”

"Is Life a Random Walk?" Photo courtesy of Little Brown Mushroom.

“Is Life a Random Walk?” Photo courtesy Little Brown Mushroom

The six teenagers who participated in the pilot Winnebago Workshop. Photo courtesy of Little Brown Mushroom.

The six teenagers who participated in the pilot Winnebago Workshop. Photo courtesy Little Brown Mushroom

During the summer of 2015, Little Brown Mushroom experimented with a precursor program, a weeklong project that consisted of six teenagers and two teaching artists. LBM staffers had thrown around the idea of the Winnebago Workshop for many months and, motivated by the feeling that “we have to do something just to stop talking about it and see what really happens,” Soth launched this pilot program. The group traveled around Minnesota taking photos, telling stories, and discussing ideas. At one stop, as Minneapolis-based artist Andy Sturdevant talked to the teenagers, Soth had his ah-ha moment, realizing that the Winnebago Workshop would indeed work: “The intimacy of being in a vehicle with a visiting artist is so different. And to have an artist talking with students while you’re moving. It was just like, it worked. I felt the goosebumps.”

The focus isn’t on teaching students how to use a camera or how to create good composition. “I don’t care if people use their smartphones,” says Soth, as long as “we can really cut to the meat of the subject matter and of engagement with the world.” A story from Soth about this summer’s Winnebago Workshop encapsulated his goal for students to interact with their surroundings in a real and meaningful way. He recounts:

So we traveled around in the RV. I mean, we would literally throw a dart at a map and go to that place. In one case, the dart hit this rural area, and we thought, you know there’s not going to be anything there. But let’s just go and see what the nearest thing is. And right there is this farm house, and so we were like, “Well, we’re here, we’ve gotta approach.” It ended up being this 75-year-old couple who farms this enormous acreage just by themselves, without their children, without migrant workers, any of it. And the wife takes us down to the basement and shows us her canning system, and the husband takes us and shows us his tractors, and the wife did this little dance for us.

Alec Soth in action. Photo courtesy of Little Brown Mushroom.

Soth in action. Photo courtesy Little Brown Mushroom

The Winnebago Workshop culminated in a pop-up show projected on the side of the eponymous vehicle in a parking lot in south Minneapolis. There were slideshows and performances by the teenagers, all at a location that was—of course—decided by a dart thrown at a map.

After the success of this summer’s test run, Little Brown Mushroom has decided to go ahead with its plans and officially launch the Winnebago Workshop program. There may be some changes when it does, however, such as encouraging collaboration between participants who are interested in diverse art forms. Soth would like young writers, comedians, and journalists to be part of the Winnebago Workshop and be in dialogue with teenage illustrators, filmmakers, or photographers. “Those lines can be blurred,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be one or the other.”

Photo courtesy of Little Brown Mushroom.

Photo courtesy Little Brown Mushroom

To fund the project’s future, Little Brown Mushroom launched a Kickstarter campaign  in late October (which has already surpassed its fundraising goal). Soth’s aim is to keep the Winnebago Workshop free for all teenagers who participate in the project: much of the funds earned from the Kickstarter will go towards this goal.

After Soth told me about the elderly farmers inviting him and a handful of kids into their home, I asked incredulously if the couple was happy about the situation. “They were!” he responded. “It was a miracle, but it’s the miracle I realize as a photographer all the time. If you go out there, stuff happens, and stuff doesn’t happen if you just sit around thinking about it.” In this age of technophilia, Soth strives to teach teens to leave their computer, get outside, and live—an important lesson that we can all learn, regardless of our age.

Photos displayed on the side of the infamous RV. Photo courtesy of Little Brown Mushroom.

Photos displayed on the side of the infamous RV. Photo courtesy Little Brown Mushroom

Photo courtesy of Little Brown Mushroom.

Photo courtesy Little Brown Mushroom

Inspired by Whitten: Painting with Ed and Jeremy

Ed Charbonneau picked at a layer of plastic wrapped along the edge of a large canvas. Leaning forward, he delicately pulled upwards, raising the Saran wrap away from the painting and lifting up a thick layer of wet paint. A large group of college students who had dropped into this Target Free Thursday Nights program clustered […]

Jeremy in front of one of the three paintings. Photo of Angela Lundberg.Ed Charbonneau picked at a layer of plastic wrapped along the edge of a large canvas. Leaning forward, he delicately pulled upwards, raising the Saran wrap away from the painting and lifting up a thick layer of wet paint. A large group of college students who had dropped into this Target Free Thursday Nights program clustered around the paintings, enjoying the close-up view.  

Standing at a nearby table topped with tubes of oil paint and linseed oil, Jeremy Szopinski demonstrated to a six-year old how to mix oil paint with a palette knife. Jeremy held up a homemade tool that he and Ed created in their St. Paul studio—a giant apparatus composed of twenty hardware store paintbrushes hammered together—and dipped it in paint. Gingerly at first, a teenager picked up the mega-paintbrush. Gaining confidence, he spread it onto the canvas in a curving motion, adding a swathe of bright, textural paint onto the abstract composition of red and orange streaks.  

In another part of the building, a public tour listened to curator Eric Crosby discuss the work of Jack Whitten, a contemporary artist who is the focus of the Walker’s new exhibition, Jack Whitten: Five Decades of Painting. When looking at Untitled (1970), Crosby explained that Whitten swept everyday objects—in this case, a carpenter’s saw—across layers of wet acrylic paint to create the textured surface.

One can’t help but draw similarities between the ways that Ed, Jeremy, and Whitten used tools—ranging from squeegees, to carpenter saws, house painting tools, and Afro picks—to create texture. And while many museum educators might shy away from oil paint—a medium that takes days to dry, stains clothing, and prompts many complaints about odor—it was clear that people enjoyed rolling up their sleeves and wearing a painter’s smock. Experiencing the creation of a painting from beginning to end allowed visitors to place themselves in Whitten’s studio for the evening.

Jeremy and Ed tearing plastic wrap off their painting. Photo by Angela Lundberg.

Jeremy and Ed tearing plastic wrap off their painting. All photos by Angela Lundberg unless otherwise noted

Participants painting. Photo by Angela Lundberg.

Participants working together. 

Photo by Angela Lundberg.

Two sisters paint together. 

Jeremy explaining the process. Photo by Angela Lundberg.

Jeremy explaining the process. 

Ed mixing oil paint. Photo by Angela Lundberg.

Ed mixing oil paint. 

Photo by Angela Lundberg.

The tools that Jeremy and Ed used included a squeegee and a house painting trim guide , all purchased at a local hardware store. Photo by Angela Lundberg.

The tools that Jeremy and Ed used included a squeegee and a house painting trim guide purchased from a local hardware store. 

Mixing paint. Photo by Angela Lundberg.

Mixing paint. 

Jeremy and Ed at the end of the night, in front of the finished products. Photo by Julia Anderson.

Jeremy and Ed at the end of the night, in front of the finished products. Photo: Julia Anderson

Cute Cat Alerts

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Did you miss seeing your cat on the big screen at the 2015 Walker Internet Cat Video Festival?

Well, have no fear! Cute Cat Alerts are here! As an added bonus, we’ve paired the audio from Ed Vogel’s audio project The Secret Music of Cats.

For those having a listen, Vogel’s music is an “inventory” of all the notes he collected from the “Discover the Secret Music of Cats” activity at CatVid. The Sonata using themes from “the inventory” development is a work in progress.

Cute Cat Alerts were collected, designed and produced by the great Andrea Brown!

 

Catvidfest 2015: The Official Reel

Did you miss the 2015 Internet Cat Video Festival at CHS Field on August 12? Have no fear, the reel is here! We present you the 2015 Internet Cat Vid Fest!

Did you miss the 2015 Internet Cat Video Festival at CHS Field on August 12? Have no fear, the reel is here!

We present you the 2015 Internet Cat Vid Fest!

CatVidFest Recap (or, Thanks for the Meow-mories!)

Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN
Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN

The 2015 Internet Cat Video Festival, August 12, 2015, CHS Field, St. Paul, Minnesota

Thank you for a fantastic 2015 Internet Cat Video Festival! It was a beautiful and meow-morable evening! Here are some moments from of the event! Enjoy

Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN

In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater’s Cat Puppet

Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN

In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater’s Cat Puppet

Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN

Human Cat Stretching with Anne Fink (Kiki) from Blooma

Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN

Human Cat Stretching with Anne Fink from Blooma

Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN

Making cat head pieces with ArtStart

Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN

Cat head pieces in place

Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN

A cat-breading photo op

Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN

Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN

Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN

Maru’s Box photo op

Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN

Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN

Yuya Negishi’s Kitty Disco Mural

Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN

Yuya Negishi’s Paint Your Own Cat Mural

 

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Cute Cat Alert: Here’s how audience-submitted cat photos appeared on Catvidfest’s big screen

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Cute Cat Alert, The 2015 Internet Cat Video Festival, August 12, 2015, CHS Field, St. Paul, Minnesota

Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN

Barb Abney emceeing Catvidfest 2015

Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN

Saintly City Cat Club

Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN

Saintly City Cat Club

Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN

Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN

Coffee House Press shows off the new Catvidfest-inspired book, Cat is Art Spelled Wrong

Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN

Taking home the 2015 Golden Kitty Award: Kris Flanagan, Michael Gabriele, and Alana Grelyak for Cat Behavior Explained

Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman tosses the ceremonial ball of yarn at the 2015 Internet Cat Video Festival

Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN

The 2015 Internet Cat Video Festival, August 12, 2015, CHS Field, St. Paul, Minnesota

Internet Cat Video Festival, 8/12/2105, CHS Field, St. Paul, MN

Catvidfest Interview: David Perez, Saintly City Cat Photographer

cat gotta be a cat - bare elegance stretching
tacaria breaking for a stretch during her session

Tacaria breaking for a stretch. Photo: David Perez

I became familiar with the cat portraits of David Perez, when I requested images from the Saintly City Cat Club for the 2015 Internet Cat Video Festival. I honestly could not take my eyes off of them! I felt like David had a unique eye, and wanted to interview him for the Walker blog. (more…)

Catvidfest Interview: Jim Davis and Garfield the Cat

In honor of the 2015 Internet Cat Video Festival, we reached out to Garfield creator Jim Davis and his cartoon cat creation to discuss the world of Internet cat videos.

Jim Davis (Garfield creator) and Grumpy Cat

Garfield Creator, Jim Davis, and Grumpy Cat – 2014

In honor of the 2015 Internet Cat Video Festival, we reached out to Garfield creator Jim Davis and his cartoon cat creation to discuss the world of Internet cat videos. (more…)

The 2015 Internet Cat Video Festival How-To Guide

Okay… You’ve got your tickets to the 2015 Internet Cat Video Festival! You’ve voted for the 2015 Golden Kitty Award! You’ve snapped a picture of Blue Beard and submitted it to “See Your Cat on the Big Screen!” You’ve created a one of a kind costume for the Cat Costume Contest—and yes you look exactly like your cat “Kitty […]

Cat Vid Fest  08-12-15 Event SlideshowOkay…

You’ve got your tickets to the 2015 Internet Cat Video Festival!

You’ve voted for the 2015 Golden Kitty Award!

You’ve snapped a picture of Blue Beard and submitted it to “See Your Cat on the Big Screen!”

You’ve created a one of a kind costume for the Cat Costume Contest—and yes you look exactly like your cat “Kitty Perry”!

It’s a week before the festival! Now what?

Countdown to Internet Cat Video Festival 2015 

In just days the Walker Art Center will take over St. Paul’s CHS Field and become a haven for cat lovers!

To help communicate the full range of fun and delight we have planned for you, and, more importantly, to help you plan for the event, we have compiled this guide that will hopefully answer your questions and make your 2015 Internet Cat Video Festival your most fun and memorable yet!

ecp2013icvf0828ss Education, Community Programs; Special Events, Screenings.  Minnesota State Fair, August 28, 2013, photos by Stacy Schwartz. For its second edition, the Internet Cat Video Festival 2013 screens at the State Fair Grandstand. This year’s showcase of feline hijinks includes new videos, appearances by special guests and celebricats, live music, art projects, and booths hosting local animal resource nonprofits. Bonus: #catvidfest 2013 concludes with fireworks!

2013 Internet Cat Video Festival at the State Fairgrounds

Tickets! Tickets! Where can I buy tickets?
Tickets are on sale here!
All seats are general admission. And hold on to your ticket stub – it gets you FREE admission to the Walker Art Center (a $14 value). Will call will be at the CHS Field box office adjacent to the main entrance starting at 6:30 pm.

Can I bring my cat?
No. Please leave all pets at home including cats and dogs. Due to the venue’s rules, animals are not allowed at this event with the exception of service animals.

What time do the videos start?
The actual cat videos will start at dusk (approximately 8:30 pm).

What happens before the videos?
We encourage you to come early to check out the cat video festival artists, community partners and sponsors!  We’ve got a bunch of fun and quirky cat-tivities planned especially for you!

Live painting by Yuya Negishi
Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre
We Have Cats Roaming Improv
The Animal Humane Society
Saintly City Cat Club
The Cafe’ Meow
And much more!

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Art Start’s Head Piece Activity

Will the Internet Cat Video Festival be ADA accessible?
The event will be ASL interpreted, and wheelchair-accessible seating is available. We also have an area that will be roped off for ADA access. For more information about accessibility, call 612.375.7564 or e-mail access@walkerart.org. Folding chairs are available for those joining friends/family with wheelchairs on the concourse level of the stadium. The ASL viewing area will be directly in front of the stage on the field.

Where will I sit?
The festival is general seating. You may have heard that it was super packed in the past – this year is no exception; we expect 10,000 guests at this year’s festival. But no worries, there is room enough for everyone! Take a seat in the stands or find your place on a blanket in the field.

CHS Field is big enough for everybody, and the act of watching cat videos together will make you feel that much closer to your neighbors, literally and emotionally.

How do I get to CHS Field?
CHS Field is conveniently located off of I-94 and Highway 52 at 360 Broadway Street, St. Paul, MN 55101.

Transportation
Plan ahead! Consider biking, walking or taking public transit to Catvidfest.

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Bike – The Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition is planning a ride to CHS Field from Gold Medal Park in downtown Minneapolis! What better way to see the festival than biking with a cackle of cat lovers! Check out this link—Group Ride to Internet Cat Video Festival Facebook Invite—for more information.

There are also NiceRide stations’s all over downtown St. Paul!

Bus / Light rail – The Metro Transit Light Rail (Green Line) drops off right at Union Depot. Walk two blocks and you are at CHS Field.

Walk – It’s going to be a lovely evening. Stretch those legs!

Drive & Park
Check out this fantastic map that CHS Field made. It lists all the available parking in the area.
Here’s a map of parking in Saint Paul.

Cat-iquette

  • No reserved seating is available; all space is first-come, first-served.
  • No lawn chairs, as they makes sightlines difficult for your new friends behind you.
  • No shade is available on the field, so bring proper sun protection.
  • Have fun!

Food & Drink

  • No outside alcoholic beverages are allowed.
  • No outside food or beverages are allowed, but there will be plenty of choices from CHS Field vendors during the festival.
  • CHS has ballpark fare: pizza, burgers, hot dogs, chicken strips, cheese curds, sandwiches, fries, etc. Concession stands are located all around the concourse.

What if it rains?
We hope it doesn’t! But in case of severe weather, this event will be held Tuesday, August 25, and your original tickets will be honored.

Final Words
We are just so happy you are joining us for the 2015 Internet Cat Video Festival! It’s going to be a fun and fantastic feline feista!

On the day of Cat Vid share your photos and your fun using hashtag #catvidfest. Questions? Hit us up on Twitter (@catvidfest) or Facebook.

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