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In which we explore a few of Minnesota's many fantastic art offerings. Let's take a trip through the Twin Cities!

Featuring the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Soo Visual Art Center, Soap Factory, Law Warschaw Gallery at Macalester College, Burnet Gallery at Le Meridien Hotel, and Walker Art Center.

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Sarah: This episode of "The Art Assignment" is brought you by Squarespace.

Whenever Mark and I are in different city filming, we always try to make it to actually see some art outside of studios while we're there. When we were in Minneapolis, in Saint Paul a few weeks ago, we built in a bit of time to see some of the many venues there for viewing art and wanted to share some of that with you.


It was a glorious fall day, and sometimes that means museum attendance is thin, but this day the museum was active. We went directly to the modern and contemporary galleries, as I am wont, and admired how well their curators integrate art works from different time periods and parts of the world and thoughtfully themed installations of the permanent collection. It was the day before Columbus Day, which Minneapolis has officially and smartly changed to Indigenous Peoples Day. The museum had dedicated the day to Native American art of the past and present, and there were live drumming and dance performances animating the galleries. For me, it's always a delight when something is actually happening inside the museum, when it's not just we from the present gazing passively into the cold dead things of the past.

From there, we walked down the street to the Minneapolis College of Art and Design where they were hosting an exhibition of new work by recipients of the 2014-15 Jerome Foundation Fellowships for Emerging Artists. Each year the foundation gives out five grants of $12,000 each to Minnesota-based artists who are at the early stages of their careers. This kind of support is critical to artists and makes a huge difference, not only providing them with more time and support outside of their other jobs, but also the opportunity to develop and display new work.

We then made a stop at Soo Visual Art and saw an exhibition that displayed artworks from various private collections around the Twin Cities. It was an eclectic show, but it should be, showing the diverse collecting habits of people around town. It also shows us that you don't necessarily need megabucks to collect art. You can buy small things and support local businesses, and surround yourself with images and objects you love, and support local, regional, and nationally exhibited artists.

Then we stopped off at the Soap Factory, an excellent exhibition site that you should definitely check out. But it was really dark in there, and no photography was allowed in the gallery, so you'll just have to trust us. Go.

The next day was crazy windy, and cold. And luckily we were stuck inside filming with two wonderful artists, David Rathman and Alec Soth, who were both generous with their time and talents. And we saw lots of great art, but all within the confines of their studios. Looking at art in museums and galleries, and then looking at it in studios is always a startling contrast for me, because you get to see how art lives when it's just sitting on the floor or pinned casually to a wall, and not in the pristine, rule-governed environment of the gallery.

So the next day started out crazy cold again, and we shot this intro for Paula McCartney before having another excellent filming experience with her in her home/studio.

Next we drove to Saint Paul to Macalester College to see the show at Law Warschaw Gallery of works by Joe Sinness. They were these beautifully rendered photo realistic colored pencil drawings, and it made me realize just how underutilized colored pencils are in the higher echelons of art production. We stayed just long enough to appreciate the art, but not so long that we had to witness a lovely older woman encounter some of the more overtly sexual images in the gallery.

We then stopped by Burnett Gallery at the Meridian Hotel in Minneapolis where we also saw an impressive selection of works in its lobby drawn from the private collection of the hotel's owner. Like there was this stunning sculpture by New Delhi based artist Subooh Gupta made of stainless steel kitchen tongs and an installation of painted bronze garbage bags by Gavin Turk. Of course it would be better without the stanchions, but you can forgive the precaution. On more than one occasion and within the walls of museums, art has literally been thrown away accidentally by staff. But while this may look like trash, it's definitely not, and you wouldn't get far trying to haul away something this heavy.

Last, but certainly not least, we visited the venerable Walker Art Center. First, we walked through their sculpture part to do the obligatory but still highly enjoyable pilgrimage to Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen's "Spoon Bridge and Cherry," an icon of the city. Much of the Walker's campus is undergoing very visible construction, but they still have plenty of amazing work to admire. One of the first works we came across inside was this stunning draped painting by Sam Gilliam which was commissioned for the opening of the Walker's new building in 1971. The Walker has an absolutely amazing collection and one that was created because of the foresight and fearlessness of its directors and curators over a number of decades.

You don't just wake up to an unparalleled art collection. It takes consistent investment in younger experimental artists, supporting their work, and making bets on their futures. The vision of this institution's leaders have left it with a rich, multidisciplinary, and diverse collection and one that is an absolute jewel in the city.

As our time in the Twin Cities progressed, I began to get a picture of the city as a really healthy ecosystem for art. For this to happen, you need good schools to educate younger artists and attract successful working artists as faculty. You need a decent number of commercial galleries that give opportunities for area artists to show and sell their work and for residents to buy that art. You need foundations to fund fellowships to support emerging and established artists. You need different levels of exhibition sites-- fun and experimental places like the Soap Factory, established and innovative places like the Walker, and an excellent encyclopedic museum like the Minneapolis Institute of Art to show art from the present in the context of art from the past.

And we didn't even come close to seeing everything we should have. There are definitely more great places than we were able to visit in a couple of days. And that's what I consider cultural success in a city this size. Too many choices. What do you think makes for a healthy art ecosystem? Let's talk about it in the comments.


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