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Breaking news, upcoming events, and periodic musings from the Weisman Art Museum.

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July 31, 2009

Weisman Art Mob visits a shabby house turned modern home

Interior windows and translucent walls. Waterfall-tread steel stairs. Paired single-car garages. These are a few of the innovative elements that make architect Geoffrey Warner's Saint Paul bungalow an ideal family home.

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For their July event, Weisman Art Mob members were invited inside the home and immediately began to comment on its thoughtfully planned living spaces, constructed with a blend of traditional and innovative building materials. Warner is principal architect at Alchemy Architects and his house, known as the Goodrich House, was one of many custom architecture projects for the firm. Alchemy is best known for its weeHouse, a modern manufactured home that arrives on lots in prefabricated portions and is assembled in hours.

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Warner and his wife Dawn De Kayser--also an architect--purchased the home despite its sagging floors, impractical room divisions, dark spaces, and an unfinished upstairs. He and Dawn wanted to create a practical and functional space for their family of four to thrive for years to come. Their strategy was to remove unnecessary walls and create room divisions through building storage elements and custom furniture. They installed skylights, translucent walls, and interior windows to keep the house naturally and efficiently illuminated, even into the twilight hours.

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Outside, the Warners have created an expansive-feeling space within their standard city lot. With landscaping help from Phillips Garden, the yard is colorfully cast using a variety of materials including Ipe decking, copper, siding, rocks, and grasses. Twin garages nestled neatly near a tidy vegetable garden and connected by a weathered steel alley wall add a historical feel and lots of charm.

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Warner (pictured above right), De Kayser, and Alchemy Architects operations manager Betsy Gabler carried on individual conversations with Art Mobbers throughout the night. Members left for the evening having experienced a home that is balanced between ornate and functional, sensible and lush, and traditional and modern.

The next learning adventure for Art Mob members takes place in September; a walking tour of the U of M's public art collection. Learn more about Art Mob membership and view a full calendar of events.

July 27, 2009

From the collection: Lyonel Feininger's Drobsdorf I

This regular series offers a glimpse into the Weisman's permanent collection. Each post features an object currently on view in the galleries.

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Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956) is known for paintings of landscape and architectural scenes that depict the environment through layered, structured planes of space. Feininger, an American expatriate who resided in Germany until World War II, originally trained as a musician, but developed into a cartoonist in the early 1900's. It was after his encounter with the French cubists in 1911 that he realized his unique painting style.

Feininger insisted that unlike cubism, a movement in which planes of space were also fractured to present the viewer with an alternate way of viewing the world, his technique created depth instead of drawing attention to the surface. The artist's fascination with landscape and architectural scenes allowed him to explore themes of light versus shadow, and material versus immaterial. In his paintings, each of these qualities embodies the same weight and presence as the other, effectively merging the tangible and intangible.

Drobsdorf I was painted along the shore of a coastal European town. It depicts a white church whose tall spire creates a sense of ascending motion. This is further augmented by the planes of atmosphere that press into and against the building. Color is the only factor that indicates different representational forms: the white of the church stands in stark contrast to the more muted colors of the sky and earth.

The Weisman purchased Drobsdorf I from the artist in 1939. Upon his return to the United States in 1936, Feininger faced criticism from American compatriots who thought of him solely as a German artist. It was only after his work began to be exhibited by major American galleries and museums in the late 1930's that it became recognized and appreciated as that of an American artist.

July 24, 2009

Neighbors

Working with visitors of all ages, and volunteer gallery guides we here in the Weisman education department (Judi and Jamee) wanted space to share some of the great questions, ideas and experiences that go down as people dig into our exhibitions. Kicking this off during the exhibition "Stories from the Somali Diaspora"--the powerful photographs by Abdi Roble seems like a perfect plan. So here are some thoughts from Judi.

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Rooted in Abdi Roble's visual images that document this forced migration, I've heard some important, sincere and sometimes hard conversations take place in our galleries. Why did these families leave Somalia? Why Minnesota? What's with the Hijab? Where or what or when is "home"?

Abdi's photos are powerful and visitors have been moved by stories of violence, survival, strength and humanity. Being so close to a large portion of the Somali community in Minneapolis--our West Bank neighbors--I've been made more aware of my own cultural assumptions and unexamined fears as I met more Somalis, particularly young Somali women. It has offered a sort of education programming gut check--what is our relationship beyond campus to our diverse surrounding communities? We talk access and engagement, but do we really do it? Can we do better? We are so fortunate photographer Abdi Roble brought not only his artwork, but his enthusiasm and compassion to town, offering a foundation we have all built on.

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One of the collaborative ideas that emerged was to create an ongoing, weekly art club with young kids from The Brian Coyle Community Center's summer program.

Working with Coyle Arts Coordinator Angel Peluso, each Tuesday this summer, a group of kids came over from the west bank to the museum to look into art ideas and create some work in response. We've had the help of teen artist Kendall Ray to get this rolling, and hope to grow with other neighboring community and arts organizations.

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The Brian Coyle Center Art Club kids have been exploring identity, materials, architecture and visual storytelling.

We're having a blast getting to know these young artists and to share ideas with their dedicated teachers and organizers. For our last summer session we went over to Brian Coyle and helped kids make shaped hats to wear in a final celebration parade planned with Bedlam Theater. The hats...well...they got a bit tall.

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Thanks to Angel for her enthusiasm and here's to our continued neighborhood collaborations!


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