Blogs Field Guide From the Archives

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.

A Useful and Beautiful Past

A friend of mine recently bought a house in North Minneapolis. In the process of renovating her attic closet, she tore out the old insulation and found… newspapers from the 1940′s. One intact newspaper section was the “Women’s News, Theater, Art, Books” from the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, dated December 1, 1946. Filling the entire front page of […]

A friend of mine recently bought a house in North Minneapolis. In the process of renovating her attic closet, she tore out the old insulation and found… newspapers from the 1940′s. One intact newspaper section was the “Women’s News, Theater, Art, Books” from the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, dated December 1, 1946. Filling the entire front page of this section is an article on the Walker Art Center titled “Useful and Beautiful (Christmas Gifts for Harried Husbands).”

The Everyday Art Gallery at the Walker created a display of hundreds of useful and beautiful Christmas gifts, procured from 16 local retailers. The items are primarily focused on things for the home, everything from lamps and tables to crepes suzette pans and salt and pepper shakers.

So as you’re perusing the Walker Shop  for your last minute holiday gifts, take a look at what it was like here 65 years ago.

For more info on these exhibitions: From the Archives – 1946-1960: “Useful Gifts” vs. “china frankfurter mustard pots”

 

 

Recipe for an Open Field

On Friday September 3, we invite you to the penultimate Open Field event: the Harvest Picnic at 6pm. In the spirit of gastronomical celebration, we want to reflect on our favorite “ingredients” of the cultural commons and thank our Open Field participants with lots of cake. Sharing food is an important aspect of the commons, and cakes in particular are made […]

On Friday September 3, we invite you to the penultimate Open Field event: the Harvest Picnic at 6pm. In the spirit of gastronomical celebration, we want to reflect on our favorite “ingredients” of the cultural commons and thank our Open Field participants with lots of cake. Sharing food is an important aspect of the commons, and cakes in particular are made to be shared, passed around, and enjoyed in good company. Cake and celebration go hand in hand at the Walker, where commemorative cakes have surfaced on every big anniversary. In 1972, the Walker commissioned a chocolate-covered cake for the first anniversary of the Barnes building.

Celebration of the 1st Birthday of the Walker Art Center’s Barnes building, May 13, 1972. Eric Sutherland for Walker Art Center.

Celebration of the 1st birthday of the Barnes building, May 13, 1972. Eric Sutherland for Walker Art Center.

The snow-covered Barnes building cake, May 13, 1972. Eric Sutherland for Walker Art Center.

Celebration of the 1st birthday of the Barnes building, May 13, 1972. Eric Sutherland for Walker Art Center.

In 1981, the Walker celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Barnes building with a cake by Betty Nelson.

Betty Nelson assembling the 10th Anniversary cake of the Barnes building, July 12, 1981. Glenn Halvorson for Walker Art Center.

Director Martin Friedman blowing out the candles on the 10th Anniversary cake for the Barnes building, July 12 1981. Glenn Halvorson for Walker Art Center.

Crowd at the 10th Anniversary Party of the Barnes building, July 12, 1981. Glenn Halvorson for Walker Art Center.

Ceremony for the 10th Anniversary of the Barnes building featuring a cake by Betty Nelson, July 12, 1981. Glenn Halvorson for Walker Art Center.

In 1998, the Walker brought in a cake for the tenth anniversary of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. This cake seems to be a more abstract representation of the Sculpture Garden (except the small spoon and cherry on top!). The Open Field cake may be either representational or abstract, but it will surely be delicious.

Cake cutting ceremony for the 10th Anniversary of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, September 12, 1998. Dan Dennehy for Walker Art Center.

Crowd eating cake at the 10th Anniversary of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, September 12, 1998. Dan Dennehy for Walker Art Center.

Director Kathy Halbreich with guests standing beside the cake for the 10th Anniversary of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, September 12, 1998. Dan Dennehy for Walker Art Center.

There have also been several artists cakes for exciting openings.

Cake for opening of the exhibition “Picasso: From the Musee Picasso, Paris,” 1980. Glenn Halvorson for Walker Art Center.

Cake for opening of the exhibition, “Calder’s Universe,” 1977. Glenn Halvorson for Walker Art Center.

The Harvest Picnic will be a delectable opportunity to share thoughts on the cultural commons and favorite events, and brainstorm the perfect recipe for an Open Field. And of course, you will have the chance to take part in the long and honorable tradition of eating a commemorative Walker cake.

A History of Place: Open Field

In 1940 when the Walker Art Center opened on a cold January night the landscape around the museum was quite different than today.  The sloping hill we know as Open Field was a forest of trees between Vineland and Groveland Place and across to Bryant Avenue South.  The Walker’s building was a 1927 brick and […]

In 1940 when the Walker Art Center opened on a cold January night the landscape around the museum was quite different than today.  The sloping hill we know as Open Field was a forest of trees between Vineland and Groveland Place and across to Bryant Avenue South.  The Walker’s building was a 1927 brick and terra cotta box with turrets in a Moorish style.  And across Vineland Place in the Parade Grounds sat the Armory Gardens, a horticultural showcase for summer flowers.  We don’t often think of an open space as having a history but in the case of Open Field there is an ongoing tradition of artistic use.  Here are a few images to put the space in perspective.

 1940.  The Walker Art Center Art School was created as part of the WPA (Works Progress Administration) with a mission to put artists to work in community-oriented projects.  A team of artists under the direction of local artist, Mac Le Sueur, provided art classes to adults and children for ten years.  

Sculptor Evelyn Raymond teaching a sculpture class outside in the courtyard adjacent to the Walker Art Center, 1940. Rolphe Dauphin for Walker Art Center.

1941.  Idea House I, a demonstration house built by the Walker Art Center opens near Bryant Avenue South.   The house remains operational for 20 years.  It was home to several Walker staff members.  The house was torn down in 1961 to make way for the Guthrie Theater.

Front of Idea House, I. Rolphe Dauphin for Walker Art Center.

 

Back of Idea House, I. Rolphe Dauphin for Walker Art Center.

1947. Idea House II, a second demonstration house built by the Walker Art Center opens next to Idea House I.   This modern postwar home was a success with patrons and critics alike.  It was also home for the Walker’s Director, H. Harvard Arnason, and family during the 1950s.  From 1963 to 1969 the house was the administrative office for the Guthrie Theater.  It was torn down in 1969 as part of the Walker / Guthrie expansion which included the brick Barnes building.

Front of Idea House II, 1719 Bryant Avenue South. On the left is Idea House I. Rolphe Dauphin for Walker Art Center.

 

 

Back of Idea House, II. Rolphe Dauphin for Walker Art Center.

1953. Starting in 1953 the Walker hosted the Courtyard Jazz Concert Series featuring the popular Doc Evans.

Doc Evans and his Dixieland Orchestra, 1958. Eric Sutherland for Walker Art Center.

 

1971. During the opening festivities for the Walker’s Barnes building in May 1971 the experimental dance troupe Grand Union featuring Yvonne Rainer, Trisha Brown, Barbara Lloyd, David Gordon, Douglas Dunn, Nancy Green, Dong, and Becky Arnold performed throughout the building and surrounding area. 

Grand Union performance in the outer lobby of the Walker/Guthrie complex, May 28, 1971. Tom Berthiaume for Walker Art Center.

 

2005. Reminiscent of Grand Union, Sarah Michelson created Daylight (for mpls) for the Walker’s opening of the Herzog and de Meuron building in September 2005.  The performance included local dancers from the twin cities in a performance that occurred in traditional spaces as well as stairwells, corridors and outdoor areas.  

Looking out of the Cargill Lounge windows onto a performance segment to “Daylight (for mpls)” September 15, 2005. Gene Pittman for Walker Art Center.

 

As part of the expansion in 2005 Walker Art Center commissioned Sky Pesher by James Turrell.  This sublime space has been a popular retreat for beautiful sky views and occasionally as a stage for musical events.

“Skyspace / Soundscape” summer concert series featuring Lookbook performing in James Turrell’s “Sky Pesher”, 2009. Cameron Wittig for Walker Art Center.

 

2008. For the 20th Anniversary of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden miniature golf returned to the Walker with a 10-hole artist designed course in the summer of 2008.

Walker on the Green, opening event, May 23, 2008. Cameron Wittig for Walker Art Center.

 

Artist-in-residence, Tomas Saraceno created Museo aero solar at the Blake School in October 2008.  The balloon was inflated at the Walker Art Center, October 11, 2008.

Artist Tomas Saraceno in orange with “Museo Aero Solar” during the balloon inflation, October 11, 2008. Gene Pittman for Walker Art Center

 

How will the Open Field continue to transform? Come visit the Walker this summer to experiment and explore the possibilities.

30 Years Ago: William Burroughs at the Walker

“Artists to my mind are the real architects of change, and not the political legislators who implement change after the fact.” —William S. Burroughs This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of William S. Burroughs’ first reading at the Walker Art Center, on October 24, 1979. The Walker would subsequently bring Burroughs back to Minneapolis in […]

“Artists to my mind are the real architects of change, and not the political legislators who implement change after the fact.”

—William S. Burroughs

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This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of William S. Burroughs’ first reading at the Walker Art Center, on October 24, 1979. The Walker would subsequently bring Burroughs back to Minneapolis in 1981 and 1983. Both Burroughs images were shot by our staff photographer at the time, Glenn Halvorson.

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