Thursday, August 16, 2018

A New Epicenter Forming on the South Side of Town: Upcoming Happenings in Carlton and Wrenshall

It's Jazz Weekend and Pippi will be Cookin' at the O on both Friday and Saturday evening. Pippi, Daniel & friends will be here to give you a soul-satisfying uplift.

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NOTEWORTHY
Glenn & Emily Swanson began the summer with an ambitious schedule that included Movies at the O, a Honey Bee Festival and more. This coming Saturday the Oldenburg House Arts and Cultural Community has lined up an afternoon and early evening of music as a fundraiser for Noteworthy Kids. The Family Music Picnic will kick off at 1:30 with the Moonlight Community followed by Pippi Ardennia at 2:45, Robot Rickshaw at 3:30 and the Big Time Jazz Orchestra at 4:00.

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If you've never been to the Free Range Film Festival in The Barn on County Road 1 outside Wrenshall, well, let's just say it's a wonderful venue. August 26 will be the opening reception for a new art exhibition titled FREE RANGE TRIALS, featuring work by Kathy McTavish and Cecilia Ramon.

Having followed Kathy McTavish's creative explorations since 2011, I can honestly say that the one consistent feature throughout can be summed up with this rule of thumb: Expect the unexpected.

According to the announcement:
In farming terms, field trials are an opportunity to determine effectiveness of experimental techniques in agriculture. In the arts, experimental trials are usually only visible in the artist studio. Free Range Trials functions as a visible lab for artistic process and creative experimentation through the exhibition of work by two contemporary artists -- Kathy McTavish and Cecila Ramon - that will be open for viewing and audience interaction from August 26 through September 3, 2018 from 2-5pm daily.

From a birds-eye perspective, Free Range Trials explores the cross section of culture and agriculture. An apt metaphor for the space can be found in the agricultural features of hedgerows. These dense spaces form boarders on the farm that foster beneficial insects. They are a little more wild and diverse and they function as an overlapping ecosystem where the more highly controlled aspects of the farm intersect with the unmitigated aspects of the natural world. They can be planned and planted but they are designed to invite chance and wild growth. These spaces serve as a metaphor for Free Range Trials. It is a literal as well as conceptual space on the margins of both art and farming where we are allowing for experimentation to foster beneficial diversity that can be brought back into both of those "fields" of study.

FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH DEPT.
Kathy McTavish recently completed a year-long solo exhibition at the Tweed Museum of art and was recently selected as an "Artist on the Verge" by Northern Spark. She is the recipient of numerous Jerome grants and is a recognized voice in new media art. Cecilia Ramon has exhibited work on an international scale and recently returned from presenting her work in Iceland and the Netherlands. She completed her masters in systems thinking from the Schumacher Institute and presented her work at a symposium last fall entitled "Terrain".

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BOTTOM LINE
There's a lot of creative energy at play on the South side of town. If you've never been to the Oldenburg House, I'd almost make it an imperative to become familiar with it. Saturday afternoon will be a beautiful day for a short drive to this "Paradise in a Clamshell" on the edge of Jay Cooke State Park, adjacent to the Munger Bike Trail.

Related Links
In 2014 Kathy McTavish, along with Joellyn Rock and friends, assembled The Sophronia Project in the Barn @ Wrenshall.
Oldenburg House website: OACC.US
Oldenburg House Jazz Education Programs

Meantime art goes on all around you. Let the music move you.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Just Another Night at the Chipmunk Oasis (A Story in Pictures)

The Chipmunk Oasis:
A Typical Dive in the Zenith City, January 2018
Narrated by Yours Truly

It was a cold, dark night. I was standing by the stove to keep warm.
Mikos and friends were getting pretty heated about Trump's latest move when...
Roger Redbelly turned and made a sharp remark.
On the far side of the room da boys were in their own high stakes world.
Kingpin Carl had a dice table going down there, too.
Roger was hot now. Benny should've cut him off an hour ago...
Louie fidgeted. He didn't want to get involved.
"I'll see your five and raise you ten."
When Maxie expressed her concern to Benny he shrugged. "It happens every night.
Just then someone brought up the Russians and for a minute it looked like...
Well, you know how it goes. It wasn't pretty.
For what it's worth, everybody got home safe. 
Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Trail of Tears + A Reminder about Tomorrow Evening's Forum at AICHO on Treaty Rights & More

"When a white army battles Indians and wins, it is called a great victory, but if they lose it is called a massacre."
 --Chiksika, Shawnee

The relationship between our U.S. government and the native peoples who occupied these lands before the coming of the Europeans has had many tragic moments. One of the most appalling was the removal of the Cherokee, Choctaw and others from their native homelands in the Southeast to a desolate barren region called Oklahoma.

In 1830 President Andrew Jackson championed the Indian Removal Act which was essentially a forced deportation. There were objections raised in some quarters. Chief Justice John Marshall of the Supreme Court stated that the act was unconstitutional. President Jackson said, essentially, "Try and stop me." In other words, the president had the army, the Court only had pieces of paper.

"The Chaos of Ghost Fish" -- painting by Moira Villiard
Alexis de Tocqeville, French philosopher who was studying the American experience at the time, wrote of this forced removal, "In the whole scene there was an air of ruin and destruction... one couldn't watch without feeling one's heart wrung."

Essentially it was a land grab and, amazingly, the country allowed this thing to happen. All through the 1830's tribal peoples were forced out and relocated. Thousands died along the way. As they made their way west from the Carolinas, however, many escaped and disappeared into the forested hills of Tennessee and fled north into Eastern Kentucky.

Today, most people give little thought to this forgotten incident. Yet we honor President Jackson with his portrait on our twenty dollar bill. No wonder history is so messy and confusing.

“Treaty Rights, Climate Justice and Decolonization”  

Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. three local organizations – AICHO, Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light, and TakeAction Minnesota – are hosting a free informational forum on the topics of “treaty rights, climate justice and decolonization.”  The event will feature four speakers who will share their knowledge and personal experiences about these topics. They include: Ricky Defoe, Lyz Jaakola, Niib Aubid, and Joseph Bauerkemper.

The panel will unpack the history and origin of treaty rights, how they have been used over time, and the role treaty rights currently play in resource extraction, resilience and relationships between Native and non-native peoples.

WHEN: August 15 at 7 pm
WHERE: AICHO – 212 W. 2nd Street, Duluth, MN.

Related Links
State of Minnesota, Fond du Lac Band reach agreement on treaty rights
Endangered, the current exhibition at AICHO
A Brief History of the Trail of Tears
The Trail of Tears and Its Aftermath

Monday, August 13, 2018

Public Art in the Twin Ports: Spirit of the Lake by Kirk St. Maur

Spirit of the Lake (detail)
It wasn't until I stopped and read the inscription on the Albert Woolson statue in 2015 (in front of the Depot) that I began to look more closely at the public art on display around the Twin Ports, hence my desire to write about some of these works that we take for granted and provide a few insights about the artists and their work. In July I kicked off the theme with a blog post titled Public Art Isn't Just for the Birds, following up with a piece on the Leif Erickson statue and a related controversy. This morning I wanted to acknowledge the Spirit of the Lake monument by Kirk St. Maur.

I'd always assumed she was Scandinavian, perhaps misled by the braid that falls across her shoulder, and in part because we have such a strong Scandinavian community here. This is why I am writing about it, to set the record straight for anyone else so misled.

Till recently I, like many others, usually gave but a passing glance at the statues as I headed toward a store, beach or restaurant. In other words, it was not real engagement or real appreciation.

As it turns out the bronze sculpture by Kirk St. Maur, is titled Spirit of the Lake and features a young Ojibwa woman.

Born in 1949, the artist was raised in the hills just across the Mississippi river from Mark Twain’s birthplace. To this day St. Maur has maintained his American studio there. When not in the States, he sculpts in Florence, Carrara, or Pietrasanta, Italy. His first one-man show took place at the Art Center in Quincy, Illinois in 1974. Since then he has had shows in both the United States and Italy.

After producing abstract art in a number of media in the U.S., he went to Italy for further experience in figurative and naturalistic art. He has studied with or assisted numerous sculptors, particularly Raimondo Puccinelli and Oscar Gallo in Florence. After receiving his M.A. in sculpture under Enrico Manfrini, he taught for a year as Professor of Sculpture at Gonzaga University’s program in Florence.

Since 1979, his work has ranged from small action pieces, such as the Flying Torchbearer, to life-size or heroic-sized realistic or symbolic works. His life-size bronze of Oregon State University’s first woman graduate commissioned in 1982 and installed in 1983 is realistic while “Against Tyranny,” “Womanhood,” and “News from the Pass at Thermoplyae" are examples of his heroic sculpture.

The Spirit of Lake Superior sculpture stands 63"x 27"x 38" and was installed in 1994 across the street (toward the lake) from Little Angie's Cantina in Canal Park. The statue features a dancing/running native American girl holding a birchbark ricing tray between her right hand and torso, atop a red granite boulder.

It's a pretty cool piece. Take a minute to appreciate the workmanship next time you're in the neighborhood.

FOR THE RECORD
On this day in Art History, French painter Eugene Delacroix passed away at age 65 in 1863. If you do not know hie, he was the artist who painted the classic painting of Lady Liberty Leading the People.

Related Links
DPAC Monument Maintenance 

Meantime art goes on all around you. Get into it.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Local Art Seen: Sandbeck and Villiard Explore Issues Surrounding Endangered Species and Endangered Lifestyles Portrayed

Ellen Sandbeck (left) with Moira Villiard
Friday evening the American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) paired two disparate artists in what might appear to be disparate themes under the single heading, Endangered. Upon deeper inspection the two bodies of work share the same root, an exploration of our impact as people on the lifestyles of Native peoples and our impact on the more vulnerable creatures of the animal kingdom.

Both artists have been making an positive impact with their art, and I was intrigued when I learned they were doing a joint show. Moira Villiard's paintings captured my eye from the first time I encountered them at a PROVE Gallery show a few years back. She's an emerging artist worth watching with a lot of future ahead of her. I've been following Ellen Sandbeck's work since the 1980's and the paper-cutting technique she's developed produces work that is jaw-dropping in its ornateness and beauty.

"Niu Ox" -- Conservation status: Vulnerable
Few people realize that Ellen at one time produced books of stencil patterns for Dover Books when she was younger. Her skills and interests have been diverse as have been the directions in which she focuses her creative energies. An author of several books on topics as varied as Green Housekeeping, worm wrangling and horticulture, her special skill producing paper cutouts is most noteworthy. One can see that although making stencil patterns fell to the background, the skillsets involved never went away.

"Interconnected" -- Moira Villiard 
Like any polymath, her wide-ranging interests intersect and produce permutations such as the incorporation of animalia from the Chinese zodiac. A couple years ago her worm business (worms assist in composting and produce organic food for plants) brought her to Southeast Asia on a business trip. Similarly, her daughter currently lives in China, and these influences have been absorbed by the ever-developing artist. Her own natural ability to focus and her attention to detail make the work she is now producing quite striking. And she's shows no signs of slowing down.

It was fun overhearing a few people making comments indicating their awe at the detail in Sandbeck's pieces. But both artists have this as their primary aim: to make people think about what we as a culture have been doing, how we are endangering animal species and lifestyles.

Endangered opened Friday in the Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center. One side of the room feature Ellen's paper cut depictions of endangered species. On the other side, Moira's illustrations depict the history of wild ricing and delve into what’s at stake in terms of a way of life in the face of sulfide mining. The exhibit will be on display through the end of August.
"Waterways" by Moira Villiard
"The Chaos of Ghost Fish" -- Moira Villiard
"Protect Water" by Ellen Sandbeck
Giclee reproductions also available for both artists' work.
Ellen Sandbeck pieces displayed here. 

Related Links
Getting Real: New Work by Moira Villiard
An Introduction to Painter Moira Villiard
Ellen Sandbeck's Buddha-A-Day Project (2013)
Ten Minutes with Ellen Sandbeck (2008)

Meantime art goes on all around you. Get into it.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Robert Lillegard Shares Practical Insights on How to Get Published in Major Media

Yesterday's Twin Ports Social Media Breakfast, hosted by UMD, convened in a rather impressive room on the third floor of Maloskey Stadium. On a perfect Duluth summer day with cloudless skies, the light streaming through walls of glass gave such a welcoming feel that it was hard to get started and hard to leave. A special shout-out to Molly Solberg for organizing these events.

Our speaker for August was Robert Lillegard, founder of Be Our Guest PR who was also a guest speaker in late 2016. His presentation at that time was both practical and thorough, which no doubt contributed to the strong turnout yesterday.

Lillegard essentially presented an outline of his career with each anecdote designed to teach a lesson about the writing life. The title of his talk served as a drawing card, mainly because he's done it: How To Get Into Major Media.


1. We all start somewhere.
He began by sharing how in 2005 he wanted to become a journalist. He shared an anecdote about his first assignment for the campus newspaper, how he went out and began surveying students regarding their level of concern regarding terrorism.

2. Rejection is part of the game.
He next spoke candidly about the numerous rejection letters he received when he first began pitching story ideas to editors. It brought to mind my own experience of sending out queries back in the days when you typed letters and included a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE). After maybe dozens of form letter rejections I received a form letter rejection with a hand-written note on it from the editor. It was thrilling to learn that an actual human being had read my pitch and rejected it personally. Editors were real people.

3. Learned about newsroom from inside.
Lillegard landed a job in which he had the opportunity to experience what it was like on the receiving end of pitches. This gave him a number of insights, including the following:
a. Never complain to media
b. Do send nice letters
c. Send photos
d. Send stories well in advance, not last minute
e. Be persistent

4. You can always get better.
He began in 2008.

5. NYTimes published an article about an idea he had had … he never pitched it.
He shared a story about an idea that he had regarding a craft beer event here in the Twin Ports. He was nearly floored when he read a New York Times story about that very same event, as if someone had read his mind. On take away for him was that he was on the right track. His idea was on target. Another lesson is to pay attention to what is being written to see what kinds of stories the media are looking for.

6. Your Content is what is important.
He underscored the importance of content. Editors are looking for stories people want to read.

7. Large Media looks at Mid-Size Media which is looking at Small Media
Media begets media. We can be seduced into thinking that the smaller media are just emulating the big dogs. The reality is that the Times is looking down at the smaller media, sifting for stories that are worthy of a wider audience. Begin at the bottom and work your way up.

He left an extensive time for Q&A and the audience, which had been full engaged, had many practical questions. Afterwards he briefly reiterated his career path and then outline his three step process for getting published in major media.

1. Come up with stories worth writing about
2. Tell editors
3. Repeat

Related Links
Tips for Aspiring Op-Ed Writers from the New York Times
How I Got Published in the NYTimes on My First Try
And finally, there is a Facebook Event Announcement of note: Michael Fedo, author of The Lynchings in Duluth and many other books, is having a book signing party for his newest release from Holy Cow! Press, Don’t Quit Your Day Job: The Adventures of a Midlist Author
I mention this only because he will be having a writers workshop preceding the book signing. The workshop will focus on how to write publishable Op-Ed articles. Details on the book signing and workshop here.

Meantime... if you're a writer, write on.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Dylan and Existentialism

“All the existentialists concur that it is through our choices that we become who we are.”
― Gordon Marino, Ethics: The Essential Writings

In June, the Magnolia Salon at Oldenburg House hosted a dialogue between Gordon Marino, author of The Existentialist's Survival Guide, and philosophy prof Steven Ostovich of St. Scholastica. The evening discussion stirred in me fond memories of a trio of philosophy professors I had at Ohio U, especially my introduction to existentialism class and another on existential literature.

There's a sense in which our philosophical stance becomes a lens by which we interpret our observations of reality in all its aspects. In this blog post I simply wanted to share a few quotes and links that might interest readers with a philosophical bent.

This first is from a blog post titled Dylan, Sartre & Existential Connections (2011)

Jean-Paul Sarte and Bob Dylan are two individuals with huge intellects and an unprecedented way of observing history, society, and deep philosophical issues with such incredible insight and poetic artistic creations. They were also two men who were at nature fundamentally human. Driven by desires we all face, standing on unique foundations of past experiences to motivate their artistic publications. These two men parallel each other in ways that are only coincidental, but today can now be seen as bizarre connections that prove they were historical counterparts to a philosophy and political view of existentialism and commentaries on political currents and cultural advancements (good and/or bad).

* * * *

The Daily Nous is an online community where philosophical discussion is the central theme. When Dylan won the Nobel Prize they featured a discussion titled Philosophers On Bob Dylan’s Words, Ideas, and His Nobel Prize Win. If you like philosophy, you may wish to bookmark this site and return to it, and if a Dylan fan you will for sure wish to make time to read this thoughtful contribution to the theme.

Liel Leibovitz's 2014 essay in response to the release of the Basement Tapes bootleg is titled, Bob Dylan, Existential Hero. It's a quick snapshot of a time when Bob Dylan was changing, after the motorcycle crash and his extended stay in Woodstock. The music scene was changing, too.

Here's another interesting slice of insight from a NYTimes opinion piece on the meaning of Dylan's silence after being award the Nobel Prize. Yesterday I wrote about "My Back Pages" and the recording of Another Side of Bob Dylan in 1964. The Times piece points out how later that year the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to the French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre. "That fall, the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre played a variation on the same tune in a public statement explaining why, despite having been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, he would not accept it." Coincidence? It's an intriguing opinion piece by Adam Kirsch.

* * * *

And finally, here's one more, from a Wade Hollinghaus blog post titled Bob Dylan and the Grand Canyon: Existentialist Thinking. Hollinghaus cites an observation by Saul Bellow of how American Existentialism is different from European Existentialism, after which he writes, "It seemed to me, as I was cruising past an unending series of blank Arizona horizons, that much of what Dylan writes about, in his musical explorations of Americana, tends to be more in touch with Bellow’s American Existentialism. The hobo figures that have littered Dylan’s hundreds of songs, are a testimony to that—'Highway 61,' pretty much all of Blood on the Tracks, the references seem endless."

* * * *
One More Time
Bob Dylan and Philosophy: It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Thinking)

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Engage it!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Historic Rendition of My Back Pages and a Bit of Backstory on the Song

The song "My Back Pages" originally appeared on the early acoustic album Another Side of Bob Dylan. It's interesting that Dylan never played the song in concert until the summer of 1978. Could it be that he now had enough back pages to put authenticity into the performance? He continued to include the song in his playlists on and off till the summer of 2012, performing it 260 times over that period of time.

One of those performances was the 30th Anniversary Concert, 16 October 1992, celebrating a milestone in Dylan's recording career. (Who will be in the 60th anniversary event in 2022?) The concert featured various artists performing over 30 great Dylan songs from his expansive catalog, mostly from the Sicties, though Willy Nelson pulled "What Was It You Wanted" from Oh Mercy, and the O Jays covered "Emotionally Yours" from Empire Burlesque. (You can see the playlist and details about everyone who performed here on Wikipedia.) It was an amazing line-up, and near the end of the night Dylan played two selections --"It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" and the one featured here, "My Back Pages."

Certain details seem to stick with you no matter how long you live, and one that stuck with me (regarding this song) was how Dylan recorded the entire album in one evening. The studio session took place on June 9, 1964. Fourteen songs were recorded, eleven of which appeared on the album Another Side of Bob Dylan. (Contrast this with the weeks and months The Beatles spent on their later albums once relieved from deadlines imposed by touring and the record company.)

There were a number of people in the studio that night including the journalist Nat Hentoff who was working on a piece for The New Yorker. It's a great read as we see first hand how quickly the young Dylan had matured as an artist. Please make time to follow the link at the end of this blog post. Hentoff sets up his piece like this:

From mural in Minneapolis.
A few weeks ago, Dylan invited me to a recording session that was to begin at seven in the evening in a Columbia studio on Seventh Avenue near Fifty-second Street. Before he arrived, a tall, lean, relaxed man in his early thirties came in and introduced himself to me as Tom Wilson, Dylan’s recording producer. He was joined by two engineers, and we all went into the control room. Wilson took up a post at a long, broad table, between the engineers, from which he looked out into a spacious studio with a tall thicket of microphones to the left and, directly in front, an enclave containing a music stand, two microphones, and an upright piano, and set off by a large screen, which would partly shield Dylan as he sang, for the purpose of improving the quality of the sound. “I have no idea what he’s going to record tonight,” Wilson told me. “It’s all to be stuff he’s written in the last couple of months.”

Mural in Haight-Ashbury
Wilson goes on to confide, “I’m somewhat concerned about tonight. We’re going to do a whole album in one session."

Having read a lot of Hentoff's essays and stories over the years, including his autobiography, this article was a special pleasure to read.

Dylan came into the control room, smiling. Although he is fiercely accusatory toward society at large while he is performing, his most marked offstage characteristic is gentleness. He speaks swiftly but softly, and appears persistently anxious to make himself clear. “We’re going to make a good one tonight,” he said to Wilson. “I promise.”

And it was a good one. The album was a summing up of his acoustic stage and a preview, lyrics-wise, of what was to come.

The six legendary performers who sang "My Back Pages" were Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Dylan and George Harrison. In moments like this I can't help but have this thought: When each of these performers was a teen, do you think they imagined being on a stage someday in Madison Square Garden with some of the most famous performers of their generation? For each, though, it all started with a love of making music. Each one is a reflection of the saying, "Follow Your Bliss."

Here are the lyrics, with the performers of each verse inserted.

My Back Pages

Roger McGuinn
Crimson flames tied through my ears
Rollin’ high and mighty traps
Pounced with fire on flaming roads
Using ideas as my maps
“We’ll meet on edges, soon,” said I
Proud ’neath heated brow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Tom Petty
Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth
“Rip down all hate,” I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull. I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Neil Young
Girls’ faces formed the forward path
From phony jealousy
To memorizing politics
Of ancient history
Flung down by corpse evangelists
Unthought of, though, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Eric Clapton
A self-ordained professor’s tongue
Too serious to fool
Spouted out that liberty
Is just equality in school
“Equality,” I spoke the word
As if a wedding vow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Bob Dylan
In a soldier’s stance, I aimed my hand
At the mongrel dogs who teach
Fearing not that I’d become my enemy
In the instant that I preach
My pathway led by confusion boats
Mutiny from stern to bow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

George Harrison
Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now

Copyright © 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992 by Special Rider Music

Here's the performance on YouTube.


What's interesting to me is how Dylan, in the Hentoff interview, appears to have no clue how far his fame would carry him. He claimed to be only concerned with the now, and not focused on where the future would take him. “Now there’s this fame business. I know it’s going to go away. It has to. This so-called mass fame comes from people who get caught up in a thing for a while and buy the records. Then they stop. And when they stop, I won’t be famous anymore.”

Now that he's garnered a Nobel Prize, he's compared with Shakespeare along with the suggestion that in 100 years we will still be studying his songs.

The latter part of the interview includes some hilarious myth-making on Dylan's part, but that's another story for another time.... READ IT HERE: Bob Dylan, The Wanderer by Nat Hentoff.

MEANTIME, life goes on all around you. Get into it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

DPAC, Monument Maintenance and a Norshor Theater Call for Art

Leif Erickson
Attending a Duluth Public Arts Commission meeting last month opened my eyes to the monumental task that this all-volunteer team is committed to. One of their many responsibilities is to maintain the the many statues that are distributed throughout the city.

One of the first things tourists notice in Canal Park, for example, are the manifold seagulls that are active on the waterfront. When you look at the statues, you often see birds standing majestically atop these emblems of the city. And what you may not notice is how clean these statues are, considering how many times they have been pooped on over the years. The reason they are clean is because there is a maintenance regimen. Maintaining the statues is a responsibility most everyone takes for granted.

No, the volunteers who serve on the DPAC are not out there scrubbing statues. Rather, they maintain the spreadsheets indicating which statues next need attention.

These thoughts came to mind when ten days ago the News Tribune broke a story that the current status of the city's Viking ship replica was again in jeopardy. The ship used to sit outside in the elements in Leif Erikson Park, a gift from Norway during the 1920's that the city promised to cherish, as in "take care of." The weather eventually got the better of her and instead of being something beautiful to adorn the park it became an eyesore, especially for those who loved her.

A few years ago the ship was moved in order to be repaired, restored, rejuvenated. I don't know all the details but the story is that the storage space will soon no longer be available. The restoration project was not a DPAC project per se, but was being managed by an ad hoc Save Our Ship committee.

What IS on the docket for DPAC, however, is the matter of addressing an issue that came up as a result of all these new discussions. Someone noticed that the base of the statue reads, "LEIF ERIKSON, DISCOVERER OF AMERICA."

Now it makes sense that Northlanders would attempt to draw attention to Leif Erikson, since all our history books have taught us that ol' Chris Columbus was the great hero who first set foot in the New World. The problem with both these designations is that they imply that the people who were already living here were not people. The Native residents arrived from somewhere, yes? And it most definitely preceded either of these European explorers.

Bottom line for DPAC, then, is what to do with that inscription on the base of the statue. Do they need to put an asterisk there and chisel in some fine print on the very bottom? Cover it all with a new bronze plate with alternative language?

* * * *
For what it'w worth, the cast bronze Leif Erikson statue was created by John Karl Daniels (1874-1978), a Norwegian immigrant who grew up in St. Paul. He trained in two different art schools before setting up his own studio. The Leif Erikson statue was dedicated in 1956, and relocated to Leif Erikson Park in 1990.

* * * *
ATTN: ARTISTS
REQUEST FOR QUALIFICATIONS

The city, via the Duluth Public Arts Commission, is seeking to have an installation inside the Skywalk in the area adjacent to the NorShor Theater. It's an unusual space and you will want to check it out. It will require imagination, but I can see why the city would like to dress it up.

Part of the RFQ reads as follows:
The Project can span the approximate 68 feet of the Western wall. This art project will cover a large brick wall that is approximately 68' in length and varies between 7' - 9' in height (see attached drawing) in the skywalk section that is just inside the NorShor entrance from the skywalk that comes from the Greysolon Plaza. The project must incorporate and acknowledge the history of theatre and cultural phenomena in what is now known as Duluth and the selection committee is open to multiple interpretations of what that means.

BUDGET
The overall budget for this project may not exceed $9,000. Furthermore, finalists will be granted $200 stipends to cover costs and transportation in order to present, if selected for RFP process.
Deadline for submissions is in September 18, so read through the information and throw your hat in the ring if there is interest.

Here is the three-page RFQ: 

Related Links
Viking Ship Charting New Coordinates After Many Storms
The Clayton-Jackson-McGhie Memorial

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

New Insights About the Albert Woolson Statue by Dr. Avard Tennyson Fairbanks

In 2015 I wrote a blog post about the Bob Dylan-Albert Woolson connection. Young Bob was a Zimmerman then, but he lived just around the corner from the man who became the last surviving Civil War veteran before his passing. In that particular post I shared an anecdote by Don Dass (Bob Dylan Way committee) regarding how the neighborhood kids would parade past his house on Veterans Day (or it may have been his birthday or some other special occasion). Young Bob was undoubtedly one of these zealous marchers.

I learned all that because I'd become inquisitive about the statue of Albert Woolson that sits in front of the Duluth Depot where the Historical Society offices are as well as the Train Museum and the Duluth Art Institute.

That's not the new insight that prompted this post. What initially prompted this post was the discovery that there is a second statue honoring this Civil War veteran. It's located inside Duluth City Hall, a bust of Albert Woolson. To see it, walk through the first floor entrance and turn to your right. There is a dark underlit alcove there with the Woolson bust on a pedestal.

I discovered the bust while heading to a meeting of the Duluth Public Arts Commission last month. It was out of curiosity that I sauntered over to the alcove, thinking, "I wonder who this is." The plaque identifies it as the bust of Albert Woolson.

Though I failed to catch the name of the artist, I did proceed to learn the name of the artist who produced the life-sized sculpture of a seated Woolson in all his dignity. The artist was Dr. Avard Tennyson Fairbanks, a prolific 20th-century American sculptor with notable work in the U.S. Capitol, including one of Lincoln, as well as the capitols of Utah and Wyoming. This statue is a patinated bronze. (I did later learn that Dr. Fairbanks also did the bust in City Hall.)

The nearly ubiquitous Ram
is a Fairbanks design.
According to the Britannica, "Fairbank's numerous works include a bronze medal of courage presented to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill by Canadian Prime Minister William Mackenzie King, the monument to Lycurgus, the Lawgiver. in Sparta, and Rain, selected as one of the greatest U.S. sculptures for Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina." 

According to Wikipedia "Fairbanks studied at the Art Students League of New York beginning at age 13 and the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in the atelier of Jean Antoine Injalbert beginning at age 17. Fairbanks received his bachelor’s degree from Yale University and his master’s degree from the University of Washington. For three years Fairbanks studied on a Guggenheim Fellowship in Florence, Italy. He received his Ph.D. in anatomy from the University of Michigan. He was also a professor of sculpture at the University of Michigan. His father was John B. Fairbanks, who was an artist and art professor. His mother, Lilly Annetta Huish, died about a year after he was born. she was a cousin of Orson Pratt Huish. Avard’s brother J. Leo Fairbanks was also an artist, and helped Fairbanks start sculpting as a teenager. Among Fairbanks’ children is Jonathan Leo Fairbanks, who was curator of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in the early 1990s."

Possibly his most well-known artistic contribution was designing the Ram emblem for Dodge. I'll bet you didn't know that!

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Meantime art goes on all around you. Get into it.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Spotlight on Jason Pearson, DAI Curator Whose Been Traveling with His Twin

This past year saw a transition in the leadership at the Duluth Art Institute. Christina Woods stepped into Annie Dugan's shoes as director and Jason Pearson became the new curator. In May we got a chance to see some of Jason's work as part of a triple opening that also featured work by Jonathan Herrera and Tara Austin. Jason's exhibition filled the Corridor Gallery, a collaboration with his brother titled Travels with My Twin. The halls featured selected works from the Pearson Brother's Collection, various items "collected" over the past 25 years.

EN: What prompted you to assemble the show with your brother?

Jason Pearson: When I accepted the position at DAI I understood that I would be charged with guiding a non-collecting institution, that in fact did hold a collection at one point in time, intrigued me.

As an art student I knew photographic collections were built and maintained from a place occupied by wealthy, rich white men who could afford to travel to locations, collect images of the pyramids, indigenous people, and exotic animals, etc. Images and objects circulated among the wealthy as documents/proof of conquest. (This was not my experience growing up and no value was attached to being creative or working in a creative field by any member of my family.)

My generation questioned art history. Collection once revered and looked at in awe, was now considered exploitation and held in contempt. This was the take away from my early art education experience.

(My) twin brother Jesse is also and artist. Most people thought we were adopted.

My goal in presenting a collection of work from the people who helped shape and guide myself and twin brother as artists & in general, would be a relatable entry point for me to get to know members of the community and talk about the role of curator.

EN: In what way is it different to be twins rather than just brothers?

JP: Defining my individuality against someone that is genetically identical is a strange thing, even to us. We developed a hyper-awareness of even small differences between us and can pinpoint the shift a single experience we had independent of one another or was it genetic - nature vs nurture  --experiences.

The first time we saw our likeness in popular culture was Selma & Thelma, Marge's chain-smoking crabby twin sisters on the Simpson's. That was our cultural mirror and reference…

When we were younger it was difficult to socialize with others.

(I have a longer story about the first time I saw a portrait of the 2 of us together and how seeing that image is the basis for my fascination with images/art.)

EN: How did you go about choosing what to put in and what to leave out?

JP: Editing was done separate of one another and if we both pulled an image of the same person we picked the one that was, we thought, more telling of the subject.

EN: What other kinds of art expression do you pursue?

JP: Overall I feel everything I do centers around being creative. I used to tell my co-workers I had to go home and curate my kitchen again. This was half true.

--I'm working on the final stages of a book with Jesse, roughly 25 years of collaboration together (photos). Title: Farewell Tour. Publisher: Fraction Editions. Essay by: Sarah Bay Gachot.

--Beginning stages of a film project.

--Beginning stages of a graphic novel about being a curator (comedic & political).

--Midway through compiling a book of short stories - (working title) Sweating in my raincoat.

EN: What have been your biggest influences as an artist or arts curator?

JP: Literally everything around me has the potential. People/experiences around me, notably living in and going to school in NYC during 9/11; Jesse almost dying from a rattlesnake bite. Mostly music right now.

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Learn more about the Duluth Art Institute at 
https://www.duluthartinstitute.org/