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

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October 10, 2010

Goodbye for a year--but not really

Today--Sunday, October 10, 2010--is your last chance for a year to visit the Weisman Art Museum. At 5 p.m., we'll close our doors until fall 2011 as part of our major expansion project.

The expansion has been part of WAM's long-term plan since the building opened in 1993. Legendary architect Frank Gehry has returned to complete his original vision for the Weisman with these new gallery spaces.

It'll be worth the wait. The Weisman's five new galleries will allow us to share more than three times as many objects from our permanent collection at any given time. One new gallery will be filled with highlights from our noted ceramics collection (master potter Warren MacKenzie will help us select the work); two will house masterworks of American modernism; and another will showcase our considerable collection of photography, prints, and drawings. The fifth new gallery, the Target Studio for Creative Collaboration, will house experimental collaborations between artists and students, faculty, and the community.

Check out some recent media stories on our expansion here, here, and here.

If you haven't been to WAM recently, here's how the construction site looks these days:


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People have asked us what we'll be doing during this year that we're closed. We'll be using off-site locations to bring you great programming like the WAM Art Mob, which visits artists' studios, tours private collections, and goes to galleries to learn about collecting art in a casual atmosphere. If you haven't been part of Art Mob before, this would be a perfect year to join. Read more here.

We'll also be taking the Weisman on the road. Through a new education program called WAM to Go, we'll bring the richness of WAM's vast collection to schools, libraries, and community centers. Trained museum instructors will lead interactive workshops that feature images of objects from the museum. Workshops are designed to be active, guided, thematic discussions rooted in the participants' experiences, with critical looking and thinking about selected images from the Weisman's diverse collection. Interested in hosting a WAM to Go workshop? Email our education department.

Also this year, we'll be reinventing and reimagining everything we do at WAM--we'll bring new interpretive techologies into the galleries, redesign our website, create new visitor experiences, re-engineer our membership program, and imagine new ways to collaborate with our audiences. You'll recognize us when we reopen, but you'll also say, "Wow--you've changed!"

So, stick around. Stick with us. Join the Art Mob. Host a WAM to Go workshop. If you haven't already, sign up for our e-newsletter, where we'll give regular updates throughout the year on our transformation. While our precise opening date has yet to be set, expect the party of the year in fall 2011.

As Gehry himself famously said, "You've got to bumble forward into the unknown."

Here we go.

October 7, 2010

No "Ordinary" exhibit

Ann Erickson, a senior at the University of Minnesota, visited the Weisman this fall as part of her journalism course "Covering the Arts". Here's her take on the exhibition Ordinarily Here, which closes Sunday, October 10.

For its third and final installment of the 2009 - 2010 season, the Weisman Art Museum has assembled a clever, double-take-inducing journey through the mundane with "Ordinarily Here" - an exhibition that celebrates and reinvigorates even the most commonplace of objects. Shredded paper, cardboard boxes and office tables are just a few of the run-of-the-mill materials currently gracing the walls of the museum. And while the materials might sound dull, the artwork most certainly is not.

Diane Mullin, associate curator of the Weisman, recently explained that the inspiration for "Ordinarily Here" came from American culture's newfound fascination with "the common." In a society overwhelmed by reality TV shows and populist political movements, Americans aren't just embracing the common; they're glorifying it. The exhibition's title also serves as a fitting double entendre, not only describing the materials, but also the artists who use them.

The ten artists whose work appears in "Ordinarily Here" are all based in the Twin Cities, and use everyday objects to unearth something far from common. "Ordinarily Here" provides a timely social commentary on what it means to be "ordinary" and "extraordinary," offering patrons the chance to take a second look at objects, places and people so often taken for granted.

Perhaps the work that best represents the idea of "Ordinarily Here" is by Diane Willow. An innovative artist who effortlessly blends art and architecture with science and technology, her piece "Bow, bow, bower, ower, bower" was difficult to miss on a recent visit to the museum. In a narrow hallway (a space often referred to as the "Corridor Gallery"), a thicket of enormous bamboo shoots loomed, jutting angularly toward the skylight overhead, forming an unusual arbor-like structure that welcomes guests to the museum with its striking presence.

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Exhibition artist Diane Willow

Attached to the intersecting sticks at precise intervals were deep-blue (cerulean) zip-ties, which added a pop of color to the visual cacophony. A path lined by small round moss patches beckoned museum visitors into the heart of this strange jungle where Willow's work came to life. From inside the bamboo structure came barely audible rasping noises, one after the next, which sounded eerily like pained breathing. The sounds, emanating from the tangles of bamboo are in fact tiny, ultra-sensitive motion sensors--a perfect example of Willow's use of both art and technology. The sensors are so acute that they not only pick up the footsteps of patrons, but also the movements of the Weisman itself. When they sense movements in the building--no matter how small--the sensors release the rasping sound as though literally giving life to the building.

Willow's provocative work not only causes patrons to pause in a space that is often hurried through to get to the "real galleries," it also draws attention to the Weisman, the architectural structure that is often overshadowed by the art it houses. A space that is ordinarily here and ordinarily overlooked suddenly comes clearly into focus in an almost meditative manner. Willow does not turn the ordinary into the extraordinary; instead she reveals the extraordinary within the ordinary. While bamboo shoots and zip-ties may not seem like fodder for a museum piece, Willow and her fellow artists certainly defy that notion. "Ordinarily Here" is a challenge to find the art of everyday life--a refreshing message from some of Minnesota's "ordinary" artists.

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