June 10 is a day that will live on in Twin Cities art infamy. We flexed our art muscles, mopped up our sweaty brow and saw how art and politics mix – sometimes unintentionally.
The day started with the grand re-opening of the Walker Sculpture Garden. The garden kept some of the old (Spoon and Cherry) and brought in some new (Katharina Fritsch’s Hahn/Cock). I love her Blue Rooster and I’d love it twice as much if it were twice as big. (It’s 25 feet tall.)
Fritsch’s work is interesting – deep colors, everyday items. The Walker is showing her work inside right now too in a show called Multiples. It includes a creepy work of matte black rats in a circle with their tails tied in a monkey knot. The Rooster is a nod to feminism but also a playful addition to the garden.
The gardens are much more open. Like a good friend getting a haircut, it’s hard to pinpoint all of the differences but a lot of trees are gone or severely trimmed. The greenhouse (former home of the Frank Gehry Fish) has lost its walls. It’s more of a patio now.
The walkway up the side of the Gallery has some real potential. The sprinklers might be the best part of a visit – when it’s 95 degrees. Right now there’s a lot of no-go space as the flora fills in. The garden feels less like a secret now – but more like a part of the city.
What was missing was any trace of The Scaffold, the gallows turn jungle gym that bore an unfortunate resemblance to the gallows of the 1862 Dakota execution. The structure was completed a month ago and torn down a week ago after mediation between the Walker and Dakota community. New sod lives where the structure was.
If the Dakota community asked that the work be entirely erased, I respect that. If the plan is to replace that piece with something that celebrates the Dakota or other culture, I applaud it. The visual silence wasn’t deafening – but it was heard.
Just hours after the garden party Northern Spark started – a night of art. This year the art took place up and down the Green Line (train from St Paul to Minneapolis). One of my favorite nights of the year.
We started in Minneapolis at the opening ceremony. In the shadow of the US Bank stadium, we arted it up in the park. One of our favorites – the Night Library was there but sadly a 2-hour wait. But we caught a little bit of the cardboard drive-in, saw wonderful birdhouse art and learned that if we don’t’ clean up our act chocolate could be extinct by 2030!!
We also saw an IRL string-art infographic. You chose a color of string based on your age and wove that string through the art based on your survey responses. Love the idea of using interactive art like that to show results.
Next stop – Cedar Riverside. We saw some markets, a Ramadan meal but mostly people bustling about. I love that art brought people to a community that might be new to them. I think that’s the best part of Northern Spark – bringing people to communities. Cedar Riverside can be a little rough – but people live there. Families live there. They take walks. They play soccer. They speak 100 languages (collectively – not just one smarty). A lot of Somalis live in the area now. It’s been a home to new Americans since the 40s – it will be interesting to see who is living there in 10 years – and selfishly what culinary traditions they will bring!
We hit the Weisman next. Perhaps my favorite exhibit of the night was the Un:heard Resonance. It was real time creation of music and video based on interaction with nature. Somehow touch turns to electronic music. Very cool.
Little Africa was next – just off Snelling. There was a super cool VR thing you could try on the train. We were disappointed that we weren’t able to download that in time to use it. I wonder if it works after the event. We also saw a sad movie on what happens to the computers you throw out. People in poverty tearing apart computers for whatever copper or metal could be sold. Tearing apart include the toxic burning away of plastic. It hurt my lungs to watch it on screen! (Gotta plug my buddies at PCs for People if you need to donate your old computers!!)
Then we ran into a hiccup. We were going to take the train to the next stop but there was a 28 minute wait. I love the train. I loved the idea of taking the train stop to stop BUT at 2 am – a 28 minutes wait can be a buzz kill. It would have been nice to have more trains throughout the night. And speaking of trains – I enjoyed seeing the trains but just like it was interesting to get people to Cedar Riverside at night – being on the train reminded me of our neighbors who ride the train at night for shelter. (My friend Monica has been cataloging that journey.)
Finally we landed in Lowertown – by car. We caught the tail end of a Native storyteller and saw some spectacular nature superimposed on buildings and painted on the street.
I say finally but we have some hopes of visiting the Mekong Night Market tonight. Always another summer favorite that was combined with Northern Spark this year.
We took some breaks to meet new people and see old friends, which means we didn’t see everything but we saw a lot. I love the idea of art between the Cities. I love the idea of getting people out and about to see the different corners of the Cities. While I’m a supporter of raising awareness of climate change. I sort of miss the days when the focus on Northern Spark was art and community. I understand the teachable moment – but art and community seem like pretty good lessons too!!