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WAM News and Events Blog

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


November 2, 2009

They got WAMmered: ceremonial groundbreaking 10/26

"Get WAMmered" was the theme of the ceremonial groundbreaking celebration at the Weisman Monday, October 26. It marked the beginning of construction on the museum's 8,100 square foot expansion project, which will add five new galleries by fall 2011.

Watch a video:


Visitors lifted a hammer and tested their strength on the High Striker. (Those who hit the bell at the top won a limited-edition t-shirt.)


University president Robert Bruininks noted the importance of the occasion in his remarks to attendees. "This is an exciting moment for the Weisman," he said. "But it is exciting for the University of Minnesota as well, as we contemplate our enormous cultural and artistic resources, and as we work to integrate arts and culture more closely into the life and curriculum of the University."

Museum volunteers raised more than $10 million from private sources for the expansion project. Target Corporation committed an additional $2 million, and the University of Minnesota contributed $2.5 million.


Joan Dayton, who co-chaired the project's capital campaign, also spoke at the event. (Carol Bemis and Karen Bachman were the other campaign co-chairs.) University vice president Steven Rosenstone and Target Corporation vice president Minda Gralnek made additional remarks.

Officials marked the occasion by raising a silver sledgehammer and pounding a steel stake into the ground where the construction will take place.


April 13, 2009

Equilibrium spoken word/hip hop showcase draws capacity crowd

The Weisman and the Loft Literary Center co-presented the Equilibrium spoken word and hip-hop showcase to a crowd of over 250 patrons on Friday, April 10. The event was presented in conjunction with the Weisman's exhibition Changing Identity: Recent Works by Women Artists from Vietnam. See a video snapshot of what took place.

January 29, 2009

Phuong M. Do's Vietnam Re-imagined

Weisman Art Museum:
Phuong, your self-portraits from Vietnam featured in Changing Identity represent complicated relationships: between you and your family, Americans and Vietnamese, and between viewers and subjects. We look forward to hearing you talk more about this series and about projects you have developed since. Could you give us a preview?

Phuong M. Do:
The self portrait work was a seven year process. While a sense of disconnect from my relatives doesn’t really go away, I have come to accept it for what it is...and that I will probably not ever feel familiar with them or they with me. Having known something about my family history—though fragmented—provides me context so that I can form own sense of self.


The "abandoned photographs" project [involving secondhand shop image collections] is an extension of the self portrait work in that the personal family photographs are lost and disconnected from their “family.�? They also provide visual snippets of narratives about peoples’ lives in a time and place that are part of the larger historical and cultural puzzle for not only Vietnamese in diasporas but for those living in Vietnam. They are also displaced by war. I haven’t had much time to work on the images but I have been thinking about ways to make the images accessible to people and perhaps become identified. I think the webspace is a great place for that but I need to conceptualize how they will be presented and if they are identified by their owners, how to integrate that into the narrative.


I brought some of my new, lacquered photographs to show at Sunday’s talk because the projected image does not really show the physical sensibility of the work. The lacquer work is more conceptual in terms of my feelings about a sense of place and space. It also integrates a process that is specific to Vietnam. Lacquer’s preservation qualities...can be likened to the photographic medium and process.


Weisman Art Museum:
Thank you, Phuong, we look forward to seeing and hearing more this Sunday at 2pm in your dialogue with Changing Identity curator Nora Taylor!

November 13, 2008

Stories of Loss and Heroism Around Art in Iraq

Casualties of war go far beyond the taking of lives. At the Weisman on November 12, former Iraqi National Museum director Dr. Donny George Youkhanna shared the specifics of what his country lost to looting—and stories about what has since been returned—when the United States invaded Baghdad in spring 2003.

He was there, in the crossfire, when helicopters filled the sky and battles broke out in the streets outside the museum. After everyone else fled, Youkhanna and three other non-security staff members chose to stand guard to protect the antiquities inside — and to preserve Iraq’s past. The museum’s collection includes some of the oldest native objects in the world, pieces that have been in the country for over a half-million years.

Youkhanna and his small crew were forced to leave the area and retreated to relatives’ homes. Within days he learned through news reports that the museum had been looted, and since then has counted over 15,000 statues, jewels, masks, and other materials that were taken. Add to that what has been taken from excavation sites over the years, and in total Iraq has lost tens of thousands — or more —pieces of history.


Today the museum has remains closed behind doors sealed with concrete, protected by raised iron fences with tops adorned with rotating knife blades. It’s an art hospital, where extraordinary efforts are taking place to conserve and restore what was lost to damage and theft.

Cori Wegener, called to Iraq as an Army Reservist and now associate curator at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, participated in a panel discussion after Youkhanna’s talk. Her team strived to identify and catalogue what was missing or damaged and helped organize recovery efforts for lost goods. She continues to help from the Twin Cities as president of the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield, which was formed in 2006 to protect cultural property worldwide during armed conflict.

Global recovery efforts have brought over 4,000 antiquities back to the museum. Youkhanna shared one story of recovery where two men approached him and admitted that they were in the museum as it was being looted. Shortly after he received word that some recovered articles were being delivered to the museum. Returning five articles were the the same two gentlemen he talked to just before. The men had taken the items to protect what was not rightfully theirs, but owned by their country for all to treasure.

November 5, 2008

Art Mob in Primary Colors


The orange and yellow leaves framed against a bright blue sky had good company on October 25 as Art Mob members arrived at the Charles Biederman-designed home of Chuck and Carol Thiss in Greenwood, Minnesota. Decked in primary colors, the home was the setting for the latest Weisman event for members of the Art Mob, a membership category that offers bi-monthly behind the scenes access to art and artists in our community.

One member, smiling ear to ear, described the experience as “being miniaturized, shrunken? enough to literally walk through one of Biederman’s signature wall sculptures of red, blue and yellow planes he created over the course of 40 years at his isolated farm in Red Wing, Minnesota.

The informal Saturday morning gathering featured a tour of the home and a discussion of the work of the artist led by museum director Lyndel King, who came to know the artist over the course of a couple of decades before he died in 2004.

The 2,000-square-foot house is organized around one large red-floored great room at the center and small bedrooms, a gallery kitchen, and bathrooms anchoring each corner. Every surface is a plane of blue, red, or yellow.

Standing in the great room, participants asked what it was like to live in such a colorful construction with two young children. Chuck Thiss, an architect , happily described it as “a small house with small bedrooms, but there’s this big open space where our kids can run. It makes us smile.?

Judging from the crowd gathered on the room’s bright red sofas, he’s right.

October 13, 2008

If Lincoln visited an art museum...


“You’ve reached the voice mail of Larry and Mary Elliott…and Abraham Lincoln too.? This was my introduction to Larry Elliott, a professional Lincoln impersonator who recently visited the Twin Cities for a public talk at the Weisman Art Museum.

By speaking with Elliott by phone and later in person, I found that his take on Lincoln goes much deeper than sharing the 16th president’s shoe size, height, weight, looks, and hometown of Hodgenville, Kentucky. As a bonus, his great, great, great, grandmother was the midwife who birthed Lincoln.

“My wife and I just have a tremendous passion to teach students what Lincoln was all about,? remarked Elliott when stating his motivation to campaign across the country. Elliott and his wife Mary, who plays Mrs. Lincoln, present regularly to school groups and others, ranging from elementary school students on up.

What would Lincoln’s perspective be on art? Elliott answers, “Lincoln was about a broad diversification of education. Poetry, art, and involving yourself in all types of educational teachings are worthy causes.? He says Lincoln believed that education and cultural appreciation should be available to the people and that they should not be profit-seeking institutions, but there for everyone. Makes a museum at a public university look pretty good before Lincoln’s eyes.

Much of Elliott’s October 2 talk at WAM focused on Lincoln’s second inaugural address, which was given just over a month before his death in April, 1865. It was at this talk that Lincoln stated essentially that the hard-fought Civil War was over. Reciting word-for-word what Lincoln said time traveled patrons to that day in March, and brought to life his passionate remarks about the Union he all but saved.

Larry Elliott’s appearance at the Weisman was one of several public programs presented during the exhibitions Hindsight is Always 20/20 by R. Luke DuBois and What do you say, AMERICA?, both open until January 4, 2009. Visit the Weisman events calendar for a list of remaining programs in the series.

Oct. 11 Hearsighted event was a sensory feast


Last weekend's "Hearsighted" event at WAM was a feast for the eyes, the ears, and the taste buds. Luke DuBois, the artist behind the politically-themed "Hindsight is Always 20/20" exhibition currently on view at the Weisman, was on hand to talk with visitors about his work and perform his music. (DuBois is a musician as well as a visual artist.)


As visitors checked out the exhibition, students from the U of M's School of Music performed electronic compositions using an array of gadetry: guitars, keyboards, laptops, and even a Wii controller.


Guests snacked on mini-burgers, truffled popcorn, and individual mini-milkshakes as they listened to a performance by DuBois and Lesley Flanigan (watch a similar version here).

After the performance, the Weisman's Shepherd Room transformed into a nightclub: DJ Etones spun a high-energy house set and visitors kicked up their heels on the glossy white dance floor.

Read more about the event in an article from the Minnesota Daily.

Read about other upcoming events at the Weisman on our online events calendar.

Design your days around the Rutherford Aris Seminar Series

This fall, carve some time out of your work or school day to enjoy the engaging Rutherford Aris Seminar Series. This distinct speaker series is presented about as often as the Olympics and features a paralleling variety of topics, each with a different perspective on a predetermined, global topic. This year’s focus is on design. Past topics include education, ethics, and the concept of elegance.

Professor Rutherford Aris (1929-2005) introduced the series to give his graduate students a well-rounded education. A celebrated chemical engineering professor, Aris was known for his innovation in the field. His research contributed extensively to the design and redesign of chemical processes, which has led to greater energy efficiency in industrial manufacturing and other arenas.

The 2008 seminar series includes perspectives on design from the theatre arts, health care, architecture, marketing, geology, product design, and more. 8hall.jpg
Of particular interest to Weisman fans is a talk by Edwin Chan of Frank Gehry and Associates titled (foga’s the acronym for Frank O. Gehry and Associates). The firm is currently finalizing plans with the Weisman for the museum’s upcoming expansion.

The series is co-presented by the University’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, the College of Design, and the Weisman Art Museum.

Continue reading "Design your days around the Rutherford Aris Seminar Series" »


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