Blogs Field Guide Fritz Haeg

Art School: Public Practice

The intersection of art, craft, and public practice is often not an intersection at all, but a blur — a crossing of boundaries and experimental interactions that blend each into the next. Yet at the institutional level there are rules, categories, rooms for each that separate our understanding of these creative entities. This dichotomy was […]

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The intersection of art, craft, and public practice is often not an intersection at all, but a blur — a crossing of boundaries and experimental interactions that blend each into the next. Yet at the institutional level there are rules, categories, rooms for each that separate our understanding of these creative entities. This dichotomy was the focal point of the season’s opening session of Art School — our contemporary art education program for Walker members — on public practice. Sarah Schultz, the Walker’s curator of Public Practice and director of Education and Community Programs, was joined by Perry Allen Price, director of education for the American Craft Council, for a discussion of current artist in residence Fritz Haeg and his work in relation to public practice, craft, and what it all means in the context of contemporary art. After the program, participants headed to Fritz Haeg: At Home in the City in the Medtronic Gallery where local artists Michon Weeks and Kate Fisher taught how to turn old t-shirts into crocheted mini-rugs, a.k.a trivets.

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It is not hard to appreciate and desire to be a part of Haeg’s work. Although rooted in all things plant-related and -derived, his work requires human interaction and use. From the most recent (and final) Edible Estate created in Woodbury, Minnesota, to the installation currently in the Medtronic Gallery, all that he makes begins with gathering plants but ends with gathering people. It is this notion that blurs the lines even within the Walker: there are not guards, but hosts, in the Medtronic Gallery who serve tea and maintain the space. The question of “is it art?” does indeed get raised when an artist like Haeg stretches the boundaries of a museum and brings the outside, craft, and domesticity inside as an exhibit. Yet if the goal is not to understand but to experience it, Haeg falls securely within the realm of art.

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To better understand the history of the distinction between art and craft and how it is challenged today, Price introduced many artists who practice crafts such as ceramics, furniture design, weaving, and embroidery in ways that defy expectation. A fundamental belief of ceramics, for example, is that the object created be used, even if that degrades its quality and increases the risk of breakage. Warren MacKenzie, however, includes that risk of decay and destruction of the work as a part of making it – otherwise how could a mug ever be made to be a mug? This concept helped explain much of what Haeg does in creating work that becomes dirty, changes over time outside with the weather, and even gets eaten. But for both the potter and the public practice artist, their work is no less art because of its use. Rather than the term “craft,” perhaps a better one would be “functional art,” as personal involvement is retained after the creative process is complete – or rather, the creative process never ends.

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A large portion of Haeg’s residency also involves the visitor making something themselves, whether helping hand crochet the large rug, helping plant the Edible Estate, or just knitting up in the gallery. This interactive element joins the limits of craft with the ability of an art museum to produce a pioneering example of public practice in contemporary art. For it is in making something oneself that one can find a better understanding in relation to one’s domestic experience, and find that art is not only what hangs in a museum, but can be how one is a part of their community.

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Making Fritz Haeg’s Rug

While the plants were growing outside in Fritz Haeg’s Foraging Circle, his crocheted rug was accruing mass inside the Walker. Once the Domestic Integrities A05 rug—or simply “the rug”—arrived to the Walker two weeks ago, it amassed 5 additional feet thanks to a team of enthusiastic volunteers who grew the rug’s diameter from 22 to 27 […]

While the plants were growing outside in Fritz Haeg’s Foraging Circle, his crocheted rug was accruing mass inside the Walker. Once the Domestic Integrities A05 rug—or simply “the rug”—arrived to the Walker two weeks ago, it amassed 5 additional feet thanks to a team of enthusiastic volunteers who grew the rug’s diameter from 22 to 27 feet in a brief three and a half days. While positioned in the Cargill Lounge, a very public centralized space in the Walker, the rug and its laborers attracted the attention of visitors and staff alike who were encouraged to take their shoes off to sit and learn about the communally-made artwork.

Artist Fritz Haeg demonstrating the crocheting technique. All photos by Gene Pittman.

Artist Fritz Haeg demonstrating the crocheting technique. All photos by Gene Pittman.

The entire rug is made from donated fabrics and clothing. The process involves cutting or ripping the textiles into strips that can be tied into the rug and woven in using a hand-crochet technique that’s very simple and requires no needles. We collected and used 300 lbs. of fabric to create the Minneapolis portion of the rug.

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Beginning in Pennsylvania the rug first took form at Mildred’s Lane, a rural artist-run space led by J. Morgan Puett and Mark Dion. It was there that the epicenter was created with white and neutral-toned antique fabrics more than 100 years old. The next section is a colorful contrast representing clothing from Haeg’s Los Angelenos friends where you can find a few sequins and zippers in the mix. Then onto New York City where it grew further at the Museum of Modern Art, followed by another trip back to Los Angeles where it stayed at the Hammer Museum, and finally to the Walker Art Center. All of the five sections remain separate to make the transport of this heavy rug possible.

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This is one of two rugs by Haeg that’s traveling around the United States along with a third one in Europe, that’s currently making its home at Pollinari an organic farm and artist residency center in Abruzzo, Italy.

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The Domestic Integrities A05 rug now resides in the exhibition Fritz Haeg: At Home in the City where it will be on view in the Medtronic Gallery until November 24th. Haeg will be here throughout August inhabiting the rug, knitting, doing yoga, and sharing tea with visitors.

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Talking Food at the Birchwood: Tracy Singleton Joins Fritz Haeg and Michael Pollan

When artist Fritz Haeg interviewed journalist Michael Pollan in Minneapolis this spring, the setting was key. The pair met up at the Birchwood Cafe, a foodie destination since 1995 and long a community hub for discussion and activism around sustainability. As their conversation neared its end, Birchwood owner Tracy Singleton — who’s also doing the […]

Lily Singleton, Tracy Singleton, and Michael Pollan at the Birchwood Café

Lily Singleton, Tracy Singleton, and Michael Pollan at the Birchwood Café

When artist Fritz Haeg interviewed journalist Michael Pollan in Minneapolis this spring, the setting was key. The pair met up at the Birchwood Cafe, a foodie destination since 1995 and long a community hub for discussion and activism around sustainability. As their conversation neared its end, Birchwood owner Tracy Singleton — who’s also doing the catering for the August 8, 2013, opening of Fritz Haeg’s Walker exhibition — joined in, and the trio discussed genetically modified organisms, the influence of another restauranteur, Berkeley’s Alice Waters, and the meals Pollan’s own mother made as he was growing up. Here’s an unpublished excerpt from the discussion that didn’t make our official interview between Haeg and Pollan:

Michael Pollan: I find it very empowering to learn that, “OK, here’s a bunch of people just making decisions about what to eat for dinner. We’re building a new food economy.” We all feel so helpless in the face of these huge problems, but we’re not, actually. If we organize our lives in the right way, we can have a tremendous impact. One of the things that draws people to this food issue is that they are seeing it happen in front of their eyes.

Tracy Singleton: When I try to talk to people about food and where it comes from, I don’t want to scare people or leave them feeling like they can’t go out to eat again.

Pollan: It’s definitely not all or nothing. I have to be really careful of that because people do feel like, “If I can’t go all the way, I am not going to go anywhere.” That’s why I said that last night [at Pollan’s talk at Beth El Synagogue] that if you can just cook one more meal at home, that makes a difference. If you can spend $10 on local food every week, that makes a difference. We’re in this all-or-nothing culture, and I think that’s used to make people stop doing anything. “It’s not realistic for me to cut down my carbon footprint, so fuck it.” But to me, half a loaf is still half a loaf. It’s not trivial.

Singleton: I am noticing that a lot with the GMO [genetically modified organism] labeling issue. Once people become aware of GMOs, they’re like, “Well, I’m not going to eat those.” I say, “Good luck trying to avoid them!” As long as we’ve been in existence we’ve been trying to source our food under certain principles. But it can be hard to totally avoid them. With the non-GMO foods, people have this expectation: they think that because I’m talking about the issue they therefore think I’m a totally GMO-free restaurant. As much as I try to be–

Pollan:  —It’s is very hard to do. But not only that, a lot of people now think if they’ve made that choice, they have taken care of the whole issue.

Singleton: No. That’s not good enough either.

Pollan: In fact, people selling organic food are struggling with this because now the consumer feels that if they get the no-GMO label, they’ve done their bit. But in fact, they’ve only taken agriculture back to 1996, where it was not so great. People are not buying organic now and buying non-GMOs, which is really bad, because they are not connecting the dots. I was talking to someone who is selling some organic grain product or something, and she said, “Yeah, the consumer just feels like our stuff costs more and non-GMO costs a little bit more and they are figuring I have done my bit if I get that,” which is really a shame because it’s hurting organic producers.

Singleton: So if they are choosing a non-GMO item then it’s not an organic item?

Pollan: It’s not organic. It just means it’s made with conventional agricultural without GMOs, which is OK, but you’re not really doing much for the environment.

Singleton: How did you two first meet?

Fritz Haeg: Around six years ago, when I was writing and editing the first edition of the Edible Estates book, I emailed to Michael to inquire if he might let us reprint “Why Mow?” from his book Second Nature. We have corresponded a bit ever since, and last year Alice Waters invited me to come join her presentation to the Edible Education class that Micheal teaches at Berkeley. It’s an amazing, amazing class.

Pollan: Yeah. Fritz came to my class last year and gave an amazing lecture. He and Alice Waters each. It was a powerful class.

Singleton: Dynamic duo right there?

Haeg: After class we went to Chez Panisse. I was with Michael and Alice, and thinking, “OK, this is cool” — pinching myself a bit.

Pollan: It was fun. We’ve had so many great people come through this class and the students of class have become so inspired. They’re all online — Edible Education at Berkeley. Watch his class.

Haeg: Sitting here at Birchwood, Michael, I have one last question: What was your table like growing up?

Pollan: My mom was a really good cook, and she was a stay-at-home mom until I was 14 or 15, then she got a job. She had four kids, and we had family dinner four to five nights a week. But she was kind of a progressive 1960s woman, so she watched Julia Child and learned and she would try. She would make beef bourguignon or coq au vin for us. Just the kids. My dad was never home for dinner because he worked really late.

Haeg: That’s amazing.

Pollan: We were kind of lucky that way, but then we had our basics. There was a rotation. Monday night, it was usually beef. Tuesday, it was pasta. Wednesday, it would be exotic, like stir fry or pepper steak with canned pineapples. She had her rotation, and I loved her food. It was really good. Then we would get to have TV dinners on the weekend when they went out. They would go out on Saturday night.

A Parade of Flowers and a Football Stadium: Before the Sculpture Garden

Before the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden existed, the space was a formal garden, a playing field and, once upon a time, a swamp. As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, it is only fitting to comb through the archives and dust off some maps, memos and moments from the garden’s pre-history. On the […]

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Before the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden existed, the space was a formal garden, a playing field and, once upon a time, a swamp. As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, it is only fitting to comb through the archives and dust off some maps, memos and moments from the garden’s pre-history.

On the layout of the Lowry Hill Area in the late 1800s, Minnesota’s first ornithologist, Thomas Sadler Roberts, recalls a forest perfect for bird watching and fishing.

“The oak woods that is now Loring Park was in the country and the lake near by… had a considerable outlet—deep enough for bass and pickerel to come and go—which crossed Hennepin, the old territorial road, about where Harmon Place now joins that avenue. This stream ran into the weedy lake which with the surrounding meadow occupied most of the present Parade Ground. Ducks bred there and in 1877 it was still a meadow…” (Shotgun and Stethoscope, 1991)

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These first recollections of water and swamp would haunt the early history of the space. The Parade Ground, first called Hiyata Park, was an early name for the ten-acre plot that is now the Sculpture Garden. Minneapolitans constructed a magisterial Armory on the site with crenellated, stone walls for the Spanish-American War National Guard volunteers at the turn of the century. The area soon was to house athletic fields and demonstration gardens.

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The Armory would play host to many budding gardeners, eager to trade notes on floriculture in a hardy and challenging environment. A 1913 florist and horticulture convention would “demonstrate,” as park superintendant Theodore Wirth put it, “to the out-of-state visitors that the Minnesota climate is not so adverse to successful achievements in floriculture as some people from other parts of the country are inclined to believe.” Who knew the Minneapolis Florists’ Club Baseball team defeated the reigning All Star champs? Florists all over the country used to enjoy the bat-and-ball sport. By 1940, with field lights and bleachers installed, the Parade was “the place to play.”

A commercial plane landed in the Parade grounds from New York in 1920, setting a world record for freight transportation. In 1928, the year before the Armory was deemed unfit for usage, a public programming extravaganza was staged within its walls. This included an old time fiddlers’ contest, a “midnite frolic,” and a dance “Bearcat” marathon that lasted over 974 hours. Much like the Internet Cat Video Film Festival, “folks say it’s the silliest thing ever witnessed, BUT they all come back to watch the marathon.” (Journal advertisement,1928).  In 1933, the Armory was torn down after sinking nearly four and a half feet into the ground.

It was to change names many times. After the Armory sank, and the space was simply a garden, ideas were thrown around: the delicate “Parade of Flowers,” the formal “Cathedral Gardens,” and the rather academic-sounding “Park Board Demonstration Gardens.”

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The space that the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden inhabits has been of horticultural interest for over a century. While gardens were present for most of the first half of the 1900s, in 1967 the Parade’s flowerbeds were removed for construction of the highway. By 1973, there were only a “few fine elms” dotting the landscape.

In a memo from 1988, Martin Friedman announces, “It’s not everyday that we can grow a garden together—metaphorically, as well as actually.” It is hard to imagine that Minneapolis’s crowning jewel of horticulture and art was once a swampland frequented by ducks.

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All images courtesy of the Walker Art Center Archives.

Together at the Tree: An Interview with Jared Walhowe

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Jared Walhowe, who works with two programs — The Garden Gleaning Project and Fruits of the City — housed within the Minnesota Project. If you had the opportunity to come to our most recent Free First Saturday you may have met one of the wonderful people representing […]

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Jared Walhowe, who works with two programs — The Garden Gleaning Project and Fruits of the City — housed within the Minnesota Project. If you had the opportunity to come to our most recent Free First Saturday you may have met one of the wonderful people representing the Garden Gleaning Project and may even have taken home a lettuce or cabbage plant for your home garden. My conversation with Jared focused on his work in relation to some of the themes found in Fritz Haeg: At Home in the City.

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How did the Garden Gleaning Project come to be?

We started informally in 2010 or 2011. At the time I was working at a food shelf called Waite House, as well as Gardening Matters. Gardening Matters is a local gardening organization and emergency food shelf network that supports all of the local food shelves, as well as the food banks that these food shelves order from. At first it was just a couple food shelves and nonprofits that got together and talked about how to get more fresh foods and vegetables on the shelves and how to get gardeners to help. They hosted the meetings and it turned into the Garden Gleaning Project. That first year it was myself with Waite House and the Little Kitchen Food Shelf in our spare time.

The next year we received funding from Hennepin County which allowed us to hire community coordinators to serve as liaisons between the gardens and the food shelves. We’ve been able to do a lot more outreach than before; many people didn’t know you could donate fresh produce, or what foods the shelves were even looking for. We had neighbors that didn’t know about us. A really localized effort is our strategy: just that neighborhood around that food shelf. The coordinators make connections, advocate for the food shelves in the community, and build relationships with farmers and gardeners.

Food shelves are stretched; a lot of them are exclusively volunteer-run, some are open one or two days of the week, some are open every day but include one paid manager that works 24/7. Some have volunteer coordinators, but we’ve found that accountability increases with a stipend position. The little money we put toward that stipend position comes back many times over. It’s more than just the pounds of food; now our neighbors knows about the food shelf. Maybe they weren’t interested in giving money, but now that they know about other ways we need help they are more than willing to volunteer at home or at the community garden. But the program is really about building relationships.

We have another sister program that’s a little bit older called Fruits of the City. Fruits of the City has a class every month in relation to growing food, usually fruit trees, but smaller plants, too. The main thing that program does is to connect with fruit tree owners and get them to register their trees with us. Last year we harvested 40,000 lbs of apples – most of it was from backyards. There’s a lot of community building in that too, and that’s what I’m interest in. I have neighbors meet neighbors whom they had never met before, because they came out and volunteered at their neighbors’ house. There are different ways to engage in both the programs, and both of them are trying to explore getting more healthy food into food shelves and building those connections and relationships.

Part of your aim is to create a Toolkit to serve as a model to help other food shelves and gardeners connect on their own. Can you tell me a little about the resources you’ve compiled to help people build these gardener/food shelf relationships elsewhere?

Well, it’s a growing model. In addition to having a coordinator at each of these food shelves, a larger, much more long-term goal is to create resources to help food shelves do this work. Hennepin County funded this project, but they want our model to help food shelves everywhere. We were able to finish this last winter. The neighborhood coordinators contributed pieces, all of those nonprofits in the back contributed, and a lot of it is coming from the food shelves and what has worked for them.

What I think is really great about this is that we’ve gotten people to download it across the US and internationally as well. My hope is that our Garden Gleaning Project Toolkit changes so it can be useful in, say, the Southwest in the same way it’s useful here. It doesn’t have all the answers, but I think this can start the conversation and we want to extend the invitation to talk with us and help us build a stronger Tool Kit.

The role I want to play is in starting that conversation, and having done this project, we’ve had people reach out and share their own gleaning experiences. So my new question is how can we learn from and share information between all of these disparate organizations that are doing similar work and find out what’s working for them? I think soon there’ll be a conference or something, because it seems like people are starting to know about each other. I mean, Fruits of the City started doing it really autonomously; they basically just geocached the trees and let people do whatever they wanted. Garden Gleaning is a little more organized, because we want to bring people together at the tree. I want to see more of those gatherings.

Fritz Haeg said a great thing in an interview with Paul Schmelzer that I wanted to share with you, “The projects I’m most interested in are the ones that exist in this fantastic, ideal notion of what the city I want to live in looks like—creating some small piece of that and putting it into the least likely part of the city to see that contrast between the city we want and the city we have.” I was curious what your ideal city looks like and how your work with The Minnesota Project relates to that?

I guess ideally we wouldn’t need food shelves. Ideally everyone would have access to land. There would be public spaces where folks could harvest food for themselves and others.

We do have a little bit of that. There are some fruit trees on our greenways and public spaces, and that’s a beautiful thing. We really want to support this idea of a community orchard, that is, a public space that anyone is welcome to, where food is free. It’s accessible and there are no stigmas or barriers surrounding it.

We worked with the the Frogtown neighborhood to do a pop-up tree nursery where we took a vacant lot that used to be a liquor store and planted a bunch of tiny fruit trees and let them grow for a while. Seitu Jones headed up this project and distributed them to neighbors in the area. Anyone who wanted fruit trees could have them. Because of this project, we have lots of new fruit tree owners using land that wasn’t being utilized otherwise and making fresh fruit more accessible.

And these food/forest concepts of turning underutilized spots into very diverse, really open and accessible edible gardens, like Fritz Haeg’s Foraging Circle that are perennial, come back year after year, and don’t require a lot of maintenance are part of the city I want to live in.

The goal of parks is to serve everyone – you can’t have one person come and pick all the apples. My thought is that we don’t have enough apple trees. If there aren’t enough for everyone, we don’t have enough. We have laws that say foraging is illegal on park land and I think the Foraging Circle is going to help us break ground on that issue and raise questions about these regulations. It’s kind of a wavering line between an art piece and a park, and that helps show it’s possible. and I’m really excited that that happened. That the Foraging Circle is a permanent installment is incredible.

I mean, we aren’t an arts non-profit. I love that he [Fritz] is doing this work. It may help us make connections and maybe get more traditional art-goers to think about food in these realms and start conversations about food in terms of access and where it exists in those spaces.

The Garden Gleaning Project is relationship-based thing as well, and it doesn’t seem as tangible as the orchard, it’s more nebulous. We have constellations of gardeners growing a tiny bit here and a tiny bit there. But I think those are real things.

Going back to that quote, if we can incorporate more edibles and community orchards, community gardens, who’s to say it isn’t art? Who’s to say it is? And how do we bring the art outside? We think of art as in a museum, but how can we think of art as something that lives everywhere and is accessible? It’s not behind walls, there’s no admission. I’m very interested in that.

If you would like to donate your time or lovingly grown produce to your local food shelf, please register your garden at gardengleaning.org/register or your fruit trees by sending an email to fruits@mnproject.org .

Acshah’s Map

Throughout her residency as part of  Fritz Haeg’s At Home in the City project, artist Katie Bachler will be blogging about the people and ideas she encounters. Greetings from the ArtLab Map Room! This is Katie. I’m here at the Walker working on a community-created map of the Twin Cities. People can draw their own […]

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Throughout her residency as part of  Fritz Haeg’s At Home in the City project, artist Katie Bachler will be blogging about the people and ideas she encounters.

Greetings from the ArtLab Map Room! This is Katie. I’m here at the Walker working on a community-created map of the Twin Cities. People can draw their own maps of what they love here, and I will make a map based on what I learn from everyone! This is Aschah. She was born in Brooklyn Park and now lives in Maple Grove. Her map is really interesting because she put herself in the center. It is a representation of all of the things that she loves coming from her brain. She loves the Mississippi River, the library, her friends’ houses. When looking at the map, we see her version of the city, based on use and connection. She has the sparkliest eyes and biggest smile when she tells me she loves Maple Grove because there are nice kids there.

At Home in the City Weekly Diary: July 2

We are beginning to settle down a bit now that the gardens have been completely installed, the rain has been easing our watering duties, and the plants seem to be making themselves at home in their respective places. All of us in the Education and Community Programs Department have now taken a collective deep breath and […]

We are beginning to settle down a bit now that the gardens have been completely installed, the rain has been easing our watering duties, and the plants seem to be making themselves at home in their respective places. All of us in the Education and Community Programs Department have now taken a collective deep breath and are ready to move forward with preparations for the gallery installation beginning at the end of the month.

In an effort to keep everyone abreast on what is happening within the three portions of Fritz Haeg’s residency — Foraging Circle, Edible Estate #15, and the exhibition featuring Domestic Integrities A05 — we have decided to do a weekly report on the ongoing efforts of At Home in the City. The At Home in the City rockstar intern team has also started a Tumblr of their own to keep a record of their activities related to the residency. Please visit The 5-H Club to see what they are up to!

Weekly Diary: July 2

Foraging Circle: Last week the first of the perennials blooms emerged. Early Sunflower (Helianthus helianthoides) and a surprise Mexican Red Hat (Ratibida columnifera) as well as Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) and Borage (Borago officinalis) – technically self-seeding annuals – were the first to show their colors. While Early Sunflower and Mexican Red Hat are useful for attracting pollinators and the seed heads are great food for birds, Feverfew and Borage have uses within the home. Fewerfew is most well-known for its ability to help with migraine headaches. The flowers of the Borage plant can be candied and used in desserts. Borage leaves can also be eaten in salads when young or mature ones can be boiled and eaten as sauteed greens. If you want to read more about the plants in Foraging Circle, please check out Foraging Circle Field Guide.

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Feverfew and Early Sunflower in bloom. Photo by Anna Bierbrauer.

Edible Estate #15: The Schoenherrs are keeping busy in their garden – both with the work it takes to upkeep such a large edible garden as well as with hosting friends and family in the space. Being the industrious folks that they are, they  initiated Wednesday Pizza Nights where neighbors can join them for a few garden tasks and be rewarded fresh produce and fresh pizza at the end of the night. Last week they also hosted a friend for a talk on the medicinal power of herbs complete with a herbal tea infusion tasting. Find out more about how they are adjusting to owning an Edible Estate at their blog.

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Brassicas are doing well. Photo by Andrea Schoenherr.

Domestic Integrities A05: We have been busy sourcing furniture and materials for the gallery exhibition. Fritz had a brief layover in Minneapolis on Friday afternoon and spent most of it looking for furniture at Piccadilly Prairie. We are also in constant pursuit of old clothing and fabric so rug weaving can begin on July 30th. If you want to clean out your fabric bin or have some clothing to donate please let Ashley Duffalo (ashley.duffalo@walkerart.org) know. One of the largest pieces of the exhibit is going to be an aerial image of the Twin Cities metro on a wall measuring 13′ tall by 33′ wide. Not surprisingly, sourcing data with a high enough resolution hasn’t been easy but I dove into the world of ArcGIS and have had lots of help from the Minnesota Geospatial Information Office and the Community GIS Program at CURA.

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The extent of the aerial image for the gallery wall. Image from Google Maps.

More to come next week!

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