Thursday, October 17, 2013

Art Stuff Both Here and Abroad

We have friends who were guests of a woman in France for part of a summer, and at one point after they had been there a while she asked, "What is this word stuff that you use? I do not understand it." She said they don't have a word quite like it in French. Our friends explained that it was a versatile word that you could use to refer to almost anything when you couldn't find a better word. She contemplated this notion a bit and finally smiled broadly, saying, "I really like this word."

All this to say that there is a lot of stuff happening here in the Twin Ports arts scene.

Today, for example, Art in the Alley is celebrating it's fifth birthday. I saw two different times for slated so maybe it is at two and maybe from four to six. Since they're having food and beverages, I am guessing the latter time, though there's a ribbon cutting planner. They have a great art space in Downtown Duluth and if you've never been there then you really should check it out. (Note: Free Blackwater martinis when you buy $25 worth of art today!)

Tonight at Beaner's Central in West Duluth there will be an open mic poetry event hosted by Tina Higgins. These are great places to share your work in a supportive environment. 7:00 - 9:00 pm.

This past Tuesday after work I attended an art talk hosted by Anne Dugan of the Duluth Art Institute. Because it was under-promoted it was also under-attended, but I'd put it on my calendar as soon as I heard about it and went because I really liked the idea of talking about art with people who know more than I about these things. Annie came to share information about the Venice Biennale, a.k.a. 55th International Art Exhibition.

I found it utterly fascinating, as the Biennale has been like a World's Fair of art for more than 100 years, taking place every other year with great enormity. Just like the New York World's Fair that I attended as a youth, countries from all over the world each have their own pavilion to display the works of an artist or group of artists from their nation. What astonished me is how large this is and that I'd never heard of it. Or if I had, it never registered somehow.

My guess is that I read about it in ArtForum magazine when I was an art student but it was just some far off and far away at the time. Annie brought it close to home with details about the curator Massimiliano Gioni who selected the theme for this year's event -- Il Palazzo Enciclopedico / The Encyclopedic Palace -- based on a document by Jung.

It's my hope to share more of what Annie shared in another blog entry, but I will tease you with this. What do Edward Hopper, Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, Ben Shahn, Helen Frankenthaler, Jasper Johns, Morris Louis, Robert Rauschenburg, Franz Kline, Louise Nevelson, Jim Dine and Hans Hofmann all have in common? Each of them had been sent as artists to represent the U.S. in the Venice Biennale at one time or another.

Last week I missed a really good meeting of the Twin Ports Arts Align at Pizza Luce. How do I know it was good? Because Crystal Pelkey took very good notes and shared them on the Twin Ports Arts Align Facebook page. In addition to Crystal, who moderated, those in attendance included Susanna Gaunt, Bill Payne, Mark Harvey, Richard Hansen, Mary Matthews, Sam Black, Cal Metts, Helen Smith Stone, Chani Ninneman, and Shane Bauer.

Bill Payne reviewed the history of Twin Ports Arts Align, including the two major January gatherings we’ve had, and our first project North x North last May.

He reminded us that the Twin Ports Arts Align is not an organization; we are a conversation that has been going on for two years. It is my opinion that the social media component alone has proved invaluable, though the group has achieved some rather important things beyond the sharing of ideas. The focus of this meeting revolved around the future of Twin Ports Arts Align and what that will look like.

Mary Matthews, represented the Duluth Public Arts Commission (PAC) and gave an update to the group of Twin Ports Arts Align (TPAA) which you can read on the TPAA Facebook page cited above.

The members of the group discussed various points and addressed questions that were posed such as these:

Question posed: Is it possible for the PAC to sponsor a gathering of arts issues/public art in January similar to how the UMD School of Fine Arts brought together the arts community for the past two years?

Discussion point: We discussed the importance of having a common vision. Richard discussed the NxN project and perhaps we didn’t reach that vision and that was part of the problem of that initial effort Helen mentioned the importance of talking about the same thing, having the same goals/vision and having an advocate to keep the conversation moving forward.

Question: Does a model exist out there where the Public Arts Commission and an Arts Align group could combine?

Question: Is the Twin Cities Springboard for the Arts a good model to look at? In the Twin Cities artists are integrated into the administration of the city.

Question: Where do our citizens see themselves in relation to the arts? Do they see it as an important part of their lives? Can we pose a survey to non-artists and pose that question to the community and enlist Visit Duluth?

Question: What are our measurements of success going to be? Minneapolis publishes a creative index, and distributes a booklet annually documenting the impact of the creative community.

Question: What statistics/data already exist in terms of the impact of the arts in our region?

Discussion point: This past January, 5 working groups met and created action steps. That model worked really well to keep things moving forward

Discussion point: Is the Greater Downtown Council a model to look at for TPAA? Members pay dues for their specific services—research, advocacy. Action step: Research the GDTC model and investigate how they became successful.


In short, there is a lot of seriously good thought behind what is happening in the local, and global, arts scene. It doesn't "just happen." It's fascinating to watch the fermentation of ideas, especially when the outcome can be the betterment of our communities.

Go team!

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