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“Lifelike” Redux: A Six-Year-Old Re-creates the Exhibition, by Hand

By Emma Cohen Six-year old Ella and her grandmother Karen were on their way home from the Walker discussing the many amazing and interesting things they saw. Grandma Karen, picking up on Ella’s excitement, suggested making a work of art when they got back home.  But Ella was quick to offer a more ambitious idea: […]

By Emma Cohen

Six-year old Ella and her grandmother Karen were on their way home from the Walker discussing the many amazing and interesting things they saw. Grandma Karen, picking up on Ella’s excitement, suggested making a work of art when they got back home.  But Ella was quick to offer a more ambitious idea: “Let’s make the museum!” Inspired by Lifelike, the pair used a combination of household items and handmade objects to make their own version of the exhibition.  When we got word of their undertaking we had to see it for ourselves. Here is what we found…

Robert Therrien made Walker visitors feel small by making his No title (Folding table and chairs, brown) larger than life. Ella also created a shockingly new sense of scale–but in a creatively different way:

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Perform Me a Picture

Who wouldn’t be curious about a place called The Museum of Everyday Life? And who wouldn’t want to know what that museum’s Chief Operating Philosopher is up to? Well, as it turned out, the woman bearing this title recently visited Minneapolis so I seized the opportunity to find out more. Last Saturday I witnessed Mild […]

Who wouldn’t be curious about a place called The Museum of Everyday Life? And who wouldn’t want to know what that museum’s Chief Operating Philosopher is up to? Well, as it turned out, the woman bearing this title recently visited Minneapolis so I seized the opportunity to find out more.

Clare Dolan performing cantastoria

Last Saturday I witnessed Mild Light, an evening of cantastoria performed by Clare Dolan. Ushered into the In the Heart of the Beast Theatre, I took a seat close to the stage. I was, I confess, hopeful that Dolan could clear up my ignorance surrounding this term “cantastoria.” She managed this with the gusto of a puppeteer, the elocution of a storyteller, and the insight of a philosopher.

But since I am none of these things, I’ll just lift a definition from the Web:

Cantastoria is an Italian word for the ancient performance form of picture-story recitation, which involves sung narration accompanied by reference to painted banners, scrolls, or placards. (Source: Museum of Everyday Life, Performance Department)

“Look.         Listen.        Observe.”

In a sing-song voice punctuated by gesture and music, Dolan urged the audience to examine the images depicted on a series of hinged canvases. This plea to look—deliberately, intentionally, and consciously look—had me hooked. It struck me what allies  we have in puppeteers! As museum educators, my colleagues and I work to enliven and animate the Walker’s collections. And I believe we could learn from puppeteers, artists who expertly imbue still things with life and feeling. The show charged me with energy (and questions) to bring back to the Walker. How can storytelling and theater amplify and enrich a gallery experience? How can multi-sensory experiences make the process of interpreting images more memorable and meaningful? How do cadence, musicality, and body language transform communication and yield an impact markedly different from ordinary speech?  I’ll be reflecting on the sensations of that night as I work with my colleagues to make meanings with objects, decipher stories within images, and share this process with our audiences.

What’s next for Dolan? She and her colleague Dave Buchen are organizing and curating  Banners an Cranks,  a festival of cantastoria performance. Curious to see for yourself right now? I recommend Dolan’s YouTube Channel.

Slab Angel makes an appearance

Here it is, the “Slab Angel,” hand crafted by Walker Tour Guides in an epic bronze pour at Vesper College on November 2. The piece will be on view and for sale at the Vesper College holiday sale and show December 2.

Here it is, the “Slab Angel,” hand crafted by Walker Tour Guides in an epic bronze pour at Vesper College on November 2.


The piece will be on view and for sale at the Vesper College holiday sale and show December 2.

They call us fearless: Tour Guides rediscover the Bronze Age

A Walker Tour Guide field trip (November 2) to Vesper college for a bronze pour was a gas.  Many of us expected a tame demonstration that we could photograph from a safe distance. But no, the evening was to be participatory learning at its most adventuresome: we made the molds, and what’s more, we poured […]

A Walker Tour Guide field trip (November 2) to Vesper college for a bronze pour was a gas.  Many of us expected a tame demonstration that we could photograph from a safe distance. But no, the evening was to be participatory learning at its most adventuresome: we made the molds, and what’s more, we poured the bronze.

The college, a niche institution that grants MFAs in Ecological Architecture, is located in a repurposed brick telephone building off East Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. Dan Noyes, its director, and assistant Heidi Sime issued goggles and gloves and showed us how to use power tools, chisels and hammers. With these tools and in a spirit of experimentation and cooperation, we chipped a pitted figure (already outlined) a la Giacometti into the wooden boards that served as a mold for our “slab angel.”

Two of us were summoned outside where a small but fiery furnace, shooting blue flames out its sides, brought the metal to a formidable 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. We received a quick lesson on handling a hot, heavy crucible with a three-foot long set of two-man tongs that could hook the pot, clamp it, and transport it to the mold. We also received helmets, leather leg gaiters and giant gloves as well as the urgent advice to move quickly but smoothly and under no circumstances, to drop the crucible.

When the mold was ready, Dan pulled off the furnace’s cover and sidewall to reveal the fabled crucible and its contents of superheated molten bronze. The thing looked dark, dangerous and hotter than Hades, but we managed to snare the container, lift it, move it, and tip its load of liquified metal into the wooden mold, which immediately burst into yellow flames. Dan doused them with sand; we set the empty crucible down and unclamped the tongs.

Later the mold, partly gone but still holding its hardening lump of bronze, went into a wood fire (only 800 degrees) until the mold was burned up.  Feeling somewhat surprised and mightily pleased at our hands-on mold-making and bronze-casting achievements, we sat around the fire, feasting on grapes, camembert, truffles and wine, all provided by our hosts. Heidi says the finished piece will be on view at “Scarpa’s Holiday Sale/Show” Friday, December 2 from 5 to 9 pm at Vesper College, 201 6th Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.

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