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Making It: A Family Guide with Todd Balthazor

By Rachel Kimpton Just how much work really goes into planning a day of engaging activities? Where do all the brilliant ideas for a public program come from? How does one correctly articulate and transform an inspiration into an idea and then to the tangible end product? To offer a little insight, we decided to […]

By Rachel Kimpton

Just how much work really goes into planning a day of engaging activities? Where do all the brilliant ideas for a public program come from? How does one correctly articulate and transform an inspiration into an idea and then to the tangible end product? To offer a little insight, we decided to walk you through the  creative process behind the illustrated gallery activity from December’s Free First Saturday, which was designed by the Walker Art Center’s Gallery Assistant Todd Balthazor.

We initially invited Todd to design an activity in July – a full five months before the activity’s premier in December. After several meetings and some serious brainstorming, Todd’s concept started to take shape later in the summer. His vision for the project encompassed 3 parts: a “find the art, fill in the blank, drawing activity.” With this in mind, he delivered two preliminary sketches to us around the end of September. The first contained pages filled with drawings and potential ideas for components of the gallery activity. The sketches featured artwork from all of the gallery spaces and included questions for the user to answer with both words and drawings.

Balthazor 1

Balthazor 2

Balthazor 3

The second preliminary sketch contained Todd’s ultimate idea: the use of an accordion fold. When in its initial form as a folded sheet of paper, the outer facade of the Walker Art Center would be visible, including guests dining in the D’Amico Gather restaurant. Opening and unfolding the sheet exposed the galleries and the actual activity.

building1

building2

After tweaking around with the design, the final draft was ready to go the first week of November. As the drawing was en route to be mass copied and printed, we received a surprise. One of the artworks featured in the gallery activity was removed from the Midnight Party exhibition and replaced with the new acquisition piece Some days it’s easy by Bharti Kher. Initially, the panel in the activity for Gallery 4 featured Robert Mallary’s sculpture The Parachutist, which had “escaped” and was shown floating off the top of the Walker Art Center. Rather than eliminate The Parachutist idea entirely, Todd kept The Parachutist still floating from the rooftop, symbolizing the removal of the piece. Some days it’s easy weighs well over 600 lbs, thus once it found its home in Midnight Party, it was very unlikely that it would move to a different location. Todd updated the central panel with an illustration of the new sculpture.

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Before and after.

After this last minute edit, the gallery activity earned the stamp of approval from Family Programs and was sent on its way to be printed. After five long months, Todd’s gallery activity was complete! It was very well received by visitors and staff of all ages, and proved to be an excellent, new way to interact with pieces in the gallery.

Balthazor final

Making It lifts the curtain on art-making around the state with posts that go inside the process of making and showing work. You’ll find these visually-oriented little pieces on both the Education and Community Programs’ blog and the mnartists.org blog. They’ll include a broad-mash up across disciplines, with everything from staff dispatches from Arty Pants and Open Field to rehearsal notes and studio visits, maybe even a few DIY tutorials by and with Minnesota artists.