This artist’s book by Siah Armajani represents three commissions in one. In 1988, the Walker asked Armajani to design a bridge to link the site of the new Minneapolis Sculpture Garden with Loring Park. What resulted was the largest sculpture ever commissioned by the Walker, the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge. Armajani then approached American poet John Ashbery to write a poem for display on the bridge. Lastly, the Walker, with funds from the Surdna Foundation, commissioned Armajani to create a book about his bridge projects.
The construction of the bridge itself was a collaborative project; it was designed by the artist but built by the Minneapolis Transportation Association. The two colors represent different elements: the blue an arch bridge, and the yellow (chosen by Armajani to match Thomas Jefferson’s study at Monticello) a suspension bridge. The commissioning of the poem entailed letting Ashbery know how long it should be (approximately 700 letters) and what the site it would be read in was like. The poem that resulted is fittingly about motion, stillness, and place. By inviting an author to be a part of the artistic process, Armajani maintained his philosophy that art in public places should be accessible and should foster dialogue, debate, and learning among the whole community.
The Surdna Foundation fund emphasizes a similar approach to creating work. Small art objects (multiples and books) designed by artists with these funds are sold, and the profits return to the same fund to commission yet another artist the following year.