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From Framer to Curator: An Evening with General Mills Art Curator Don McNeil

The Walker Contemporaries recently took a field trip out to the General Mills Campus in Golden Valley and had a tour with Don McNeil, curator of the General Mills Art Collection. The Contemporaries, made up of young professionals at Twin Cities companies, had expressed an interest in learning more about corporate art collections, and there was a specific […]

The Walker Contemporaries recently took a field trip out to the General Mills Campus in Golden Valley and had a tour with Don McNeil, curator of the General Mills Art Collection. The Contemporaries, made up of young professionals at Twin Cities companies, had expressed an interest in learning more about corporate art collections, and there was a specific interest in General Mills as it has a focus on collecting contemporary art. Thanks to Don and Mark Addicks, chief marketing officer of General Mills and a member of the Walker board, the group was able to get a look at this private collection after work hours.

Don has worked at General Mills since 1976, and has been a consultant since 2006. “I had a degree in economics and masters in art history, but what General Mills was really interested in was that I had worked in a frame shop, and knew how to frame art,” Don told the group at the introduction to the tour.

Since General Mills is headquartered in Minnesota, Don noted, one goal of the company is to support local artists by acquiring their work. Here’s a piece by Alec Soth right next to one by Angela Strassheim, both of whom have ties to the area. Soth is based in the Twin Cities, while Strassheim graduated from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Not only have their works been in Walker exhibitions, they are also in the collection. Don talked about their different artistic practices, even though they use the same medium of photography for their works. Soth stumbled across the scene he shot, while Strassheim manufactured and manipulated the setting. Can you tell which is which?

Here’s Contemporaries member Walter Pitt taking a snapshot of  Chuck Close‘s portrait of minimalist composer Phillip Glass. General Mills was able to get this piece early, Don said, before Close hit it big. This was probably in relation to Close’s first solo exhibition at the Walker.

One of the interesting things to note about the collection is that none of the artworks are accompanied by labels; this gives all artworks fair play. If employees want to learn more about any of the works in the collection they can use the company intranet to look up more information. Employees also have the opportunity to have a say in what artworks they’d like in their work areas. Some are even so popular there’s a waiting list! Several of the works can be easily moved, like the tree below. It’s on wheels!

Several of the pieces in the collection came from relationships with the Walker. Don told the story of how it’s rumored that when the Walker’s former director, Martin Friedman, first saw the work below he tried to see if he could peel the tape off.

After the tour, Contemporaries were able to enjoy cocktails and appetizers while appreciating what an inspiring art atmosphere there is on the General Mills campus.

Pictured: Margaret Sines, Dave Jacobs, and Jon Engel

Pictured: Melanie Full, Sarah Raser, Glen de Guzman

Want to participate in events like these? Contact donors@walkerart.org or call 612.375.7642 to learn more!