Plains Art Museum will host two simultaneous opening events on Wednesday, Sept. 25 from 7 to 9 p.m., to display new artwork by the Fargo Moorhead Visual Artists (FMVA) and the Museum’s teaching artists. Both events and the Museum galleries will be free and open to the public that evening.
The FMVA reception is a preview of works across a range of mediums by more than 40 artists participating in the annual FMVA Studio Crawl. The show and reception will be in the Xcel Energy Gallery and stays on exhibit through the Crawl, which is held on Oct. 5 and 6. During the Crawl, visitors to the museum who present a Crawl brochure will have free admission to all galleries.
The “Meet the Artist” open house in the Katherine Kilbourne Burgum Center for Creativity showcases the talents of several professional teaching artists who lead adult and youth classes. Visitors are invited to explore the various classrooms in the Center for Creativity and connect with instructors during the open house.
For more information, visit fmva.org and plainsart.org.
Photo: Pottery by Ren FuglestadView Event
“Grumpy Cat,” “Lil Bub,” “Pudge” and “Henri” are names of just a few celebrity cats made famous by videos on YouTube. The cats are a viral phenomenon, and now they are part of an art museum’s repertoire to expand audiences.
It’s a fascinating new development in museum circles, spearheaded by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. I saw these celebrities in person – and their videos – at the Minnesota State Fair in August, when the Cat Video Festival played to an audience of 10,000 in the fair’s grandstand.
Usually the paragon of cutting edge art, WAC lately has become known across the nation and even internationally for this unexpected hit. The Cat Video Festival was developed by the Museum’s education staff as part of their new initiative called Open Field, with fun activities for the public taking place in the museum’s outdoor spaces, including the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.
First organized a year ago, the Cat Video Festival started innocently enough as a fun way to close the 2012 season of Open Field with an outdoor movie screening. Rather than anything avant-garde, WAC staff decided to feature a popular art form – YouTube videos that people make of their cats doing funny things. Some of these are bona fide short movies with plots, characterizations and voice-overs. The museum solicited submissions from around the globe, juried the submissions, and planned to present the best ones.
To their surprise, 10,000 people showed up. Some brought their cats. Some painted their faces to look like cats. Others wore cat costumes. Everyone was flabbergasted at the turnout. It was a super fun evening of people being together outside on a warm night. They laughed their heads off together. A phenomenon had been born.
Front page of the Arts section in the New York Times shortly followed, then an invitation for Scott Stulen from the WAC staff to speak about the festival at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. Then came an invitation to do a TED talk. Taking it to the Minnesota State Fair as a grandstand show was a logical next step.
On a serious note, the Cat Video Festival is a lighthearted way to reach out to diverse audiences to get more people involved with museums. And you can look at these shorts as homemade art. The project is an effort to bring people together offline, together in the same venue. Funny is more funny when laughing with 9,999 other people than alone on your computer screen or cellphone.
I’m happy to report that, at Plains Art Museum, we are talking with Stulen and others at WAC about showing the Cat Video Festival in Fargo a year from now. It would be tied to an exhibition and conference that highlight artists working with communities.
Get your cat videos ready! Get ready to get together for a good laugh about our feline companions and the people who love them.
NxNW is an occasional arts and culture column written for The Forum by Colleen Sheehy, director and CEO of the Plains Art Museum.
Photo Credit: Meet Lil Bub by Paul Schmelzer
Art with a twist: the opening reception for T. L. Solien’s new show features music, food, and refreshments, including a special “Moby-tini” martini created especially for the event, which takes place from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21st. On Sunday, Sept. 22, from noon to 10 p.m. the Museum becomes the site for 60 narrators participating in a marathon read of Moby-Dick, the initial inspiration for the Toward the Setting Sun exhibition, which runs through January 12, 2014.
Solien began this series in 2003 after reading Herman Melville’s classic 1851 novel. He was struck by how the main character, Ahab, is so hell-bent on destroying the great whale Moby-Dick that his fanatical obsession leads him and his whaling crew to ruin. Solien identified with Ahab’s tragic flaws and recognized patterns that are deeply ingrained in American history and culture, and set about exploring the novel’s themes and characters in visual form. This led him to the 1999 novel, Ahab’s Wife, or the Star-Gazer, by Sena Jeter Naslund. He shifted the focus of his visual art to Ahab’s wife, who became his main character, “an Every Woman,” who travels through history and geography, moving beyond the narrative of the novel. In Solien’s hands, Ahab’s wife reinvents herself in different settings and professions, adapting to her circumstances rather than imposing her will on the world, as Ahab strove to do.
In collaboration with many community partners, Plains Art Museum is hosting several related events that correspond to the T. L. Solien: Toward the Setting Sun exhibition. The Museum partnered with the public libraries in Fargo, Moorhead, and West Fargo to promote the “Three Communities, Two Books, One Art Exhibit” project, encouraging people to read Moby-Dick and Ahab’s Wife in anticipation of the exhibition opening. Events in the coming weeks include lectures, workshops, book discussions, performances of the opera Moby-Dick by Fargo-Moorhead Opera, and a visiting author series in partnership with North Dakota State University featuring Sena Jeter Naslund, bestselling author of Ahab’s Wife. In addition, special screenings of movies that inspired the Solien exhibition will be held at area libraries and the Fargo Theatre. All events are free, except where noted. The full schedule of events is available at Plains Public Events and 321fm.org/events/.
T. L. Solien, Waterlilies, 2007 Mixed media on paper 30 5⁄8 x 35 1⁄2 in.View Event