Laurie Van Wieren livens up the Museum

January 1, 1970 - to
Laurie Van Wieren livens up the Museum

Choreographer Laurie Van Wieren has been a resident here at the Museum for the past week, and we’ve been thrilled to have her. While officially here on “business” exploring ideas for a new dance piece, she’s also been getting involved with some of our day-to-day activities; she took part in a discussion with a group of visiting students and even joined in Marjorie Schlossman’s “Painting at the Plains” class on Wednesday. Her positive attitude and enthusiasm are infectious.

Laurie has appreciated the opportunity to rehearse and create in our third floor raw space and tailored a few of her movements to the architecture. She will further share her talents and expertise this Saturday in a movement workshop, inspired by the Judy Onofrio exhibition See Acts of Audacious Daring, entitled “I Ran Away with the Circus“. In the workshop, she’ll focus on the movements of circus performers, clowns, and acrobats. It’s an excellent opportunity for performance artists, visual artists, and dancers to expand their physical repertoire. If you can’t make it for the workshop, feel free to drop by tomorrow, 10 a.m. – noon and 1 p.m. – 3 p.m., to watch Laurie rehearse and have a chat.

Learn more about Laurie Van Wieren by visiting her website at laurievanwieren.com.

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The opening reception for ‘You Like This’

January 1, 1970 - to
The opening reception for ‘You Like This’

An attendee at the 'You Like This' exhibition voting on a work of art. Photo by Britta Trygstad, Milestones Photography.

Everyone has opinions. In a gallery setting, sharing these opinions can be an important part of the experience. We have the ability to learn new things about ourselves by sharing our thoughts on a piece of art, even if they are opposite from the person standing next to us. With this in mind, the Museum unveiled You Like This: A Democratic Approach to the Museum Collection in the Jane L. Stern Gallery with an opening reception on October 6 featuring great art, music, and lots of opportunity for discussion.

People munched on candied bacon, fresh spring rolls and artisan cheeses while enjoying the sounds of local ambient rock group, Opinions About Dinosaurs. Their sound was new to many people, but because this exhibition is experimental in its own right, it was a great match. Before walking through the gallery, there was uncertainty and anticipation in the air. People were wondering what they would see, why the Museum would choose to have an exhibition like this, and how this all came about. Visitors said the You Like This timeline, which explained each event that led to the opening, and videos featuring interviews with community curators helped explain the process more clearly. You can watch these videos in the gallery or online here. Once everyone knew the scoop, it was time to start voting and sharing opinions.

Visitors were encouraged to interact with exhibition  in a variety of ways. People browsed the exhibition and filled out ballots that asked for a “I like this” or “I don’t like this” response for each piece. Others posted sticky-notes on the comment wall in the gallery about certain pieces or general reactions about the exhibition.  These comments, as well as some gathered earlier in the process and posted on the labels of each piece, are an interesting and central part to this exhibition. Good, bad, or hilarious, the opinions they share spark discussions.

The sticky-note comment wall in the 'You Like This' exhibition.

You Like This is the first crowdsourcing exhibition the Museum has shown. It involved handing curatorial duties over to the Fargo-Moorhead community (rather than a staff-appointed “authority”) to select the featured works of art. This meant they also had to choose how the works would be displayed in the gallery. The curators felt that since the the exhibition was unlike any other at the Museum, the experience of visiting it should be too.  A sofa and lazy boy recliner were placed in the space, the pieces were hung at uneven levels (some very high, some low to the ground), and the use of frames and color blocks behind the art all helped visitors experience the art in different ways than they normally do.

This process has gone through many changes since the first initial survey last spring. Since then, we used more surveys, community curating panels, and lots of discussion to allow the community to handpick their favorite art. At the opening, visitors saw the selections in the order the results indicated by their popularity. Now, a week later as the comment wall continues to grow and the ballot box gets more votes, this exhibition will also continue to grow and change in response to the feedback.

You Like This will run October 6, 2011 – January 15, 2012, so stop in occasionally to see how your votes are changing this reflection of Fargo-Moorhead’s favorite art in the Museum permanent collection.

The exhibition features unorthodox hangings and splashes of color per the requests of community curators. Photo by Britta Trygstad, Milestones Photography.

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A visit from Mark Nisbet

January 1, 1970 - to
A visit from Mark Nisbet

Mark Nisbet, North Dakota principal manager for Xcel Energy, (left) stopped by the Museum last week to chat with our curator Megan Johnston (middle) and education director Sandy Ben-Haim. Mark oversees Xcel’s sponsorship of our Kid Quest series.

The three had a lively conversation about energy policy and the responsibility of companies to encourage a more vibrant community for its customers and employees. We thank Mark and Xcel Energy for their continued support of the Museum and Kid Quest.

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Before the Opening: What You Should Know About ‘You Like This’

January 1, 1970 - to
Before the Opening: What You Should Know About ‘You Like This’

Last spring, the Museum called for the community’s help in curating an upcoming exhibition. Now fall is here and it’s time to see the end result in the exhibition You Like This: A Democratic Approach to the Museum Collection. But before you see the art, there are some things you’ll want to know about this special exhibition.

The process began about six months ago with an idea to “crowdsource” an exhibition. The crowdsourcing phenomenon uses large groups of people to create new ideas and projects. The first step for our process was to create an initial survey to decide which types of art and artists the Fargo – Moorhead community calls their favorites. Museum staff worked with a group of community members to narrow down the works of art to a more manageable number using the guidelines from the initial survey. After that, the public voted again in a final survey we posted online in July. Then, we called back the community curators after the final selections were made to choose how the works will be displayed when You Like This opens.

The last two community curating meetings were spent discussing general layout ideas like color choices, framing, and organization of the art. Curators liked the idea that the voting and interaction with the exhibition didn’t stop at the opening, so they brainstormed ways to take in more votes. During the exhibition, visitors are encouraged to interact with You Like This in a few different ways:

  • Ballot boxes in the gallery will allow you to vote up or down on specific works of art;
  • A comment wall in the gallery will capture your thoughts on the exhibition or specific works of art;
  • Interactions through Facebook and Twitter will allow you to connect with others and leave comments;
  • An email address is available for you to send your thoughts and comments.

To hear more from our community curators, check out a short video of what they thought of the You Like This process.

You can probably tell that technology played a large role in this process, and it really has! The Museum learned a lot of interesting things by analyzing the data we collected, and technology also makes it easy for us all to communicate and discuss our opinions.  If  you don’t have a mobile device to use in the gallery, don’t worry – we’ll have a form you can take home so you can respond at your convenience.  After we’ve generated enough comments and votes, the polls will be re-evaluated and each piece’s ranking will change according to the results.

The You Like This opening reception will be 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6 in the Jane L. Stern Gallery and will have refreshments, cash bar, and music by local ambient-rock group Opinions About Dinosaurs. Admission is free for members, $10 for nonmembers and $5 for students.

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Kinji Akagawa: Feeling Beauty in the City

January 1, 1970 - to
Kinji Akagawa: Feeling Beauty in the City

Imagine a Fargo more condusive to creative life, one with more spaces allowing you to rest your feet, reflect on your surroundings, or eat lunch outside while you read a book. Imagine a Fargo that encourages you to be healthier and more active, one in which your stressful life is buffered by spaces where you can meet with friends and chat under the late autumn sun.

Such a city is the goal of artist Kinji Akagawa – places that are healthier and cleaner, places that contribute to a more balanced lifestyle for inhabitants and build a sense of serenity and cohesiveness. Akagawa’s public art works do this by both accentuating and deintensifying the environment, offering city dwellers a place to pause or socialize. He creates small, everyday oases that defuse a city’s callous nature, exploring the relationship between art and the community through the use of elegant shapes and natural materials, mainly stone and wood. His works are meant to be practical as well as beautiful, a notion perhaps best seen through his famous benches – two such works can be found in the Walker Sculpture Garden and Nicollet Mall.

Akagawa is a well-known figure in the public art movement, a professor emeritus of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and a recipient of the 2009 McKnight Distinguished Artist award. He was also part of the Museum’s 2009 Defiant Gardens Symposium. In a presentation entitled “Feeling Beauty in the City,” Akagawa will encourage the City of Fargo to consider issues addressed in his work in its long-range planning process. The presentation will be held at Fargo City Hall Wednesday, October 5, at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

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