CURRENTLY ON VIEW: ARTISTS AT WORK
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar
photo: Bette Marshall
The exhibition Artists at Work presents an in-depth look at three artist-in-residence projects that recently took place at the Walker through the support of the Pew Charitable Trusts. The installation documents the shared artistic process between these artists and the individuals, communities, and organizations with which they were involved. Featured are filmmaker Cheryl Dunye and her new screenplay about women in prison; the Dutch design studio Atelier van Lieshout and its hybrid sculpture-mobile art lab commissioned for the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden; and the Urban Bush Women/David Murray Octet's latest dance-jazz collaboration.
THE MEDIA BAR
The media bar includes a storehouse of resources--from books and magazines to an online computer for accessing a range of Web sites--so visitors can explore at their own pace using media with which they're comfortable. A touch-screen database highlighting the art and events of the past 50 years offers easy access to the digital resources of the museum in various formats. For example, visitors can learn more about the exhibition Art of Our Time: 1950 to the Present by viewing a video clip of Walker curators speaking about their favorite works, by searching for a specific artist or artwork, or by following the themes set forth in the Art of Our Time galleries. The database also displays a time line that draws parallels between art and events in history.
BLU DOT DESIGN
From the start, Minneapolis' Blu Dot Design has had a decidedly populist approach to design. Established by sculptor John Christakos and architects Maurice Blanks and Charles Lazor, its founding goal was to make flawless modernist-inspired designs affordable. "We had a hunch that there were other people out there who were well educated and fairly sophisticated, but were just priced out of the better design market," says Lazor. The hunch has paid off, and during the last three years Blu Dot's furniture has made its way from the pages of Newsweek and Interview to Joey and Chandler's apartment on Friends to, if all goes as planned, the shelves of a Target store near you. At the same time, Blu Dot has garnered a reputation for design that has attracted the attention of Metropolitan Home and Arbitare, not to mention the judges at the 1998 Accent on Design trade show, where it won the Best Collection award. This ability to nimbly navigate the line between high art and mass appeal earned Blu Dot its first commission for an art museum: the design for the Walker's new interactive Andersen Window Gallery.
The design presented a set of unique challenges. Located within the Walker's permanent collection galleries, where most often the art is not to be touched, the Andersen Window Gallery must invite hands-on discovery. And since the installations will change every six months, the configuration requires flexibility for easy and frequent adjustments.
Blu Dot--whose name evokes phrases like "blue jeans" and "blue-plate special" while also alluding to the coolness of Coltrane's "Blue Train"--met these challenges by using the everyday. The firm's three partners selected warm-toned walls of sanded homosote, plenty of wood-grain surfaces, and a pegboard holding computer monitors and hardware to create an environment that is halfway between a home study and a museum. The pegboard system, akin to the kind commonly found in the family garage, allows for countless arrangements. With such low-tech accoutrements, the gallery is just as fit for writing on a chalkboard as it is for searching an online database with a touch-screen computer.
From its innovative design to the interactive projects on view, the Blu Dot-designed Andersen Window Gallery offers a new kind of museum experience. "We wanted it to be clear that when you turn the corner, this is a completely different space," says Christakos.
For more information on Artists at Work check out the New Andersen Window Gallery press release (13 August 1999). For more information on Walker programs supported through The Pew Charitable Trusts, check out the Walker's Pew website.