Museums Around the Metro: The Value of In-Person Arts
May 2, 2023
The Walker Art Center
Last semester, I took a class called Art Now: 21st Century art, which art teacher Bill Colburn described as “the class where we try to figure out what is going on at the Walker”. The Walker Art Center is a contemporary art museum located just up the street that includes a number of indoor galleries and the sculpture garden. The Walker features both art in traditional styles that have an inventive flair or contemporary styles, as well as art that stretches the boundaries of what art can be. Recently, they have been taking steps to feature artists of varying backgrounds and identities. They have made a particular effort to add more art from BIPOC identifying artists and women. This can be seen both in their permanent collections and rotating shows. For example, a piece by Angela Two Stars, a local native american artist, called Okiciyapi was installed in the sculpture garden in 2021. Similarly, works by Ta-coumba T. Aiken, another local artist, are on display in the galleries and the sculpture garden.
During my time in the art history class, I visited the Walker at least once a week. We saw every show available in the fall and cataloged all of the art in the sculpture garden. It was through this experience that I truly appreciated the benefit of immersive and experiential learning. Because of our access to the museums, we were able to learn so much more about the art world, including museum and gallery curation, as well as the art itself. While we learned about art, both through slideshows and in person visits, I found the in-person visits to be more valuable. Seeing art in person is so much more impactful, personal and engaging than any slideshow. We were able to see texture and detail in a way it cannot be captured digitally and we were able to make more individual choices about what art we wanted to study because we had direct access to so much of it. The upper school is located in a city full of culture and history. Taking advantage of the rich resources and experiences Minneapolis has to offer can make learning experiences so much more impactful.
The Science Museum
Within the lush atmosphere of the Science Museum, home to many exhibits of our youth, there are still many things to enjoy that may incite nostalgia as well as inspire curiosity. Its richly popular exhibits lead there to be over a million visitors each year to the museum, and with its education and fun exhibits, there is a litany of experiences to enjoy. At the time of this writing, there are currently four temporary exhibits: “Exquisite Creatures,” “Community Curators,” “Science Superheroes,” and “Artist at Pine Needles.” Exquisite Creatures is an exhibit present from February 25 through September 4th, which presents animal specimens that are arranged such that they create intricate patterns in a wide variety of textures and colors. The exhibit includes crystals, lizards, beetles, ammonites, and much more. The museum notes that the exhibit is inspired by the term “biophilia” which is the innate instinct to connect with the rest of the natural world.
The second temporary exhibit is Community Curators. It is held in the lobby of the Science Museum, and it invites numerous community artists, educators and organizers to select items from the museum’s vast collections alongside their own work, and each curator holds conversations about the objects and specifically how they relate to their own cultural community. Another amazing temporary exhibit is Artist at Pine Needle Gallery, where there is a gallery describing the place where art and science intersect.
The final temporary exhibit is Science Superheroes, where one can meet different scientists in the field and learn about their work. Some of these superheroes include Dr. Alex Hastings who discovered a 2500 pound snake from prehistoric South America and Dr. Catherine Early who attempts to understand prehistoric birds through X-ray technology. One of the most popular exhibits that is a personal favorite of mine is the Light Gallery, which plays with distortions and fun effects that someone can experiment in for hours. Ultimately, the Science museum places an importance on the idea of “fun” throughout its numerous exhibits and is amazing for those that are passionate about science or even those that simply wish to have some fun with great variety of things to do there.
Mia: Minneapolis Institute of Art
The Minneapolis Institute of Art, more commonly known as Mia is (arguably) the best arts & history museum in Minnesota. From a plethora of art, spanning multiple continents, to ancient artifacts and an exhibition room that houses multiple shows a year, Mia has so many different items to see and experience. Personally, I have been going to Mia for my entire life, as I am extremely interested in art. This museum has been an integral part of my life, and one of my earliest memories is visiting the museum with my middle school class and seeing the giant Chihuly glass sculpture right as you enter the museum. Even now I am taking multiple class trips every year to Mia to gain knowledge and insight into the art world.
For my Advanced Painting class, we were tasked with going to Mia and choosing a pattern that we saw in any piece of art there and making our own painting in response to the pattern. This experience was one of the best moments I have had in my painting class, because it was bringing both my love for painting at school and Mia together. Even going for a short class period one day immediately brought me so much inspiration. Being able to go to Mia for class is always my favorite activity.
Over the summer, I spent every Saturday I had free at Mia with my mom walking around and soaking in the museum. We started on the second floor, experiencing the South East Asian art. Having spent so much time at the museum over the summer, I learned just how vast the collection of South East Asian art is at Mia. I spent hundreds of hours in the museum, drawing each ink scroll to gain a better understanding of ancient painting techniques. This led me down a rabbit hole of reproducing masterpieces using the ancient techniques, gaining knowledge that I now use in the art I make everyday. Mia is almost constantly exchanging these paintings as well, meaning that each time you visit, there will most likely be new art that you haven’t seen before.
My favorite kind of art is French Impressionism, and lucky for me, Mia has a relatively large collection that you can visit. Even though it is tucked away in the back corner of the museum, the room consists of paintings from well known artists such as Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Vincent van Gogh, and Pierre Bonnard. Bonnard is my favorite painter, and the painting that Mia has on display by him is absolutely breathtaking. The painting on display is called “Dining Room in the Country,” and it is one of multiple that Bonnard painted depicting his wife at their house in the French countryside. Not only is the painting absolutely beautiful, but it is extremely large as well, which means that the viewer can easily see the color and brushstrokes Bonnard used to express himself.
Not only does Mia have a multitude of different international artists, but they often have art from local artists as well. Over the summer there was an exhibit of my favorite artists from here in Minnesota, Alec Soth. Soth is a photographer who went to the Breck school, often photographing people on their own, creating a sense of loneliness and longing. He also is also well known for his landscape photographs of the American Midwest, and the exhibit at Mia showcased this extremely well.
All in all, Mia is an extremely amazing place that the Twin Cities has, and the fact that it is so close to school makes it even better. Not only are they showcasing art from around the world, but there are most definitely niches that each person can experience and love on their own. The museum is always changing its exhibitions and the art that goes along with it, so each trip is new and exciting. I love Mia and I can’t wait to visit it again soon, as I know I probably will.