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In Belt Tightening Move, IFP Minnesota Plans to Relocate

Posted by: Colin Covert Updated: March 7, 2014 - 11:29 AM

The Independent Filmmaker Project Minnesota, a fixture on St. Paul’s western border since 2005, will soon be packing up for a move.

Seeking a new headquarters with lower rent than its current location, the media arts center will soon announce a new address. The current leased space at 2446 University Av. W. in St. Paul, a 7,500-square-foot site filled with spacious offices, “is no longer meeting our needs,” IFP Minnesota Executive Director Andrew Peterson announced Thursday. While he emphasized that “IFP MN is on strong financial footing,” a less costly home base “is crucial to future stability and success.”

IFP was founded in 1987 when a group of Minnesota filmmakers got together to create a Sundance-bound feature, “Patti Rocks,” and to encourage local filmmakers to create projects outside the studio system.

Economizing on rent will help the organization, which administers several McKnight grants, direct its resources to its core mission. “All non-profits need to be responsible with their budgets and weight spending toward programming, rather than rent,” Peterson said. In recent years, IFP Minnesota has tightened its belt with staff salary cuts.

IFP Minnesota's current space, which includes gallery space, administrative offices and photo darkrooms, opened a decade ago the help of many community leaders and funders to serve the independent film and video community. The new location will allow space and reallocated resources for expanded youth workshops, new film and video courses, additional professional development, and more media artist fellowships, as well as other events and exhibitions.  

Cat video fest returns to Walker in August

Posted by: Kristin Tillotson Updated: February 7, 2014 - 2:01 PM

The Walker Art Center is bringing back its cat-video festival back to its Open Field, were this family of feline fanciers were photographed at the fest's 2012 debut.

Cats may roam, but eventually they come back home.

On Aug. 14, the Walker Art Center will reprise its stunningly popular Internet Cat Video Festival for a third year -- this time back on Open Field, the rolling green expanse next to the museum where 10,000 people gathered for rhe first fest in 2012.

Intended only as an experiment at first, the festival became a stellar example of togetherness in the Internet age, a place where people fond of viewing cat videos, one of the most universally popular online time-wasters, could gather IRL (in real life) for communal enjoyment of the same thing on a giant screen.

The event drew international media attention from sources as varied as the New York Times, the BBC and CHEEZburger, a website largely responsible for popularizing cat videos in the first place. The fest has also helepd to make stars of Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub and other furry little divas, as well as spawned several -- ahem -- copycats, but do not be fooled: The Walker can rightfully lay claim to conceiving the original animal.

Last year the fest was moved to the Grandstand at the Minnesota State Fair, because construction at the Walker made field access problematic and they anticipated an even bigger crowd. The move drew criticsm from purists who felt the magic would be lost due to both the less-than-sylvan venue and the cost. The first fest was free, but last year attendees had to pay $10 on top of fair admission.Still, it drew an even bigger crowd of 11,000.

Sarah Schultz, the Walker's director of education and curator of public practice, called the State Fair "an excellent alternative venue to host a large crowd" but said that a return to Open Field was always the plan, now that construction is complete.

This summer’s fest will be programmed by  inaugural Golden Kitty (people's choice)  award-winner Will Braden, the video producer behind perennially angst-filled Henri le Chat Noir. Information about video submissions and event details will be announced next month.

Some observers wonder whether the cat-video supernova burned too bright, too fast, to last. The Walker folks aren't worried about its enduring appeal.

"Cat video fans are a passionate bunch,"said publicist Rachel Joyce, noting that the festival's tours to other cities has increased the fan base. "I don't think it's time for the cat to jump the shark just yet. But it might make a cool video."

Walker Art Center names two new curators

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: February 6, 2014 - 4:09 PM

Fionn Meade @ Guillermo Riveros

Walker Art Center has hired two new curators including a Senior Curator of Cross-Disciplinary Platforms, a new post designed to reflect the center's focus on artists who work in many fields ranging from film, video and music to dance and such stationary visual arts as painting, printmaking or photography. That post will be filled by Fionn Meade starting May 5.

Meade is presently a curator, writer and faculty member at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College and Columbia University in New York City. His expertise is in film, performance and museum practice. He will also be Interim Head of the Walker's Visual Arts Department while a search continues for someone to replace Chief Curator Darsie Alexander who is leaving to become executive director of the Katonah Museum of Art in suburban New York City.

Meade's first task will be to oversee the presentation of Radical Presence, an exhibition about black performance in visual art from the 1960s to the present. One of his future shows will focus on the work of visual artists who collaborated with choreographer Merce Cunningham whose archive the Walker owns.

He previously worked as a curator at the Sculpture Center in New York City and at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle. He has a M.A. degree in creative writing from Columbia and a M.A. from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard.

Isla Leaver-Yap, photo provided by Walker Art Center

The second appointee is Isla Leaver-Yap who will take the new post of  Bentson Visiting Film Scholar starting March 3. Presently living in Glasgow, Scotland she is expected to do research on the Walker's Ruben/Bentson Film and Video Collection which has a high concentration of avant garde films dated from 1943 - 1985. She will report to Meade but also work closely with Sheryl Mousley, the Walker's film curator.

Leaver-Yap has extensive experience with film groups in London and New York. She has an MA in art history and English and a MSc in Art History Research from the University of Edinburg, Scotland.

Former Walker Art Center curator to head Los Angeles Museum

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: January 16, 2014 - 12:25 PM

Vergne in a Thomas Hirschhorn 2006 installation at the Walker. Star Tribune staff photo by Tom Wallace.

Philippe Vergne, who was curator and later Deptuy Director and Chief Curator at  Walker Art Center, has been picked as director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. He follows Jeffrey Deitch, a former New York art dealer, whose controversial leadership of MOCA ended with his resignation last September after three years on the job.

The 35 year old museum in downtown Los Angeles has struggled financially in recent years as it tried to manage three sites and to develop an artistic vision that would please artists and excite support from wealthy collectors and potential donors. Within the past year board members raised $100 million to shore up an endowment that had dropped to $6 million in the 2008 financial crisis. The money is expected to produce income of at least $5 million annually to support operations.

Vergne,47, is fondly remembered in Minneapolis for his indelible French accent and his venturesome exhibitions which included more than 25 international shows including solo show and installations by Yves Klein, Thomas Hirschhorn, Huang Yong Ping and Kara Walker.

His decade long association with the Walker (1998 - 2007) was briefly interrupted by a return to his native France to run the private Francois Pinault Foundation in Paris. When the foundation's namesake mogul decided to relocate the foundation to Venice, Vergne in 2005 returned to the Walker as Deptuy Director and Chief Curator.

In 2008 he moved to New York to head the Dia Art Foundation which focuses on massive installations, conceptual, and earth-art primarily by mid-20th century Americans. He is credited with strengthening Dia's board of directors, consolidating its operations, and developing long range plans to stabilize its finances and artistic ambitions.

Artists have been deeply involved with MOCA since its founding in 1979 and their vociferous criticism of Deitch as overly commercial contributed to his departure. Conceptualist John Baldessari heartily endorsed Vergne's selection, saying in a statement issued by the museum, "I am 100% excited that Philippe Vergne will be the new director of MOCA. MOCA is very fortunate. I think it's a perfect marriage."

Other artists who touted Vergne in the museum's statement include Barbara Kruger who cited his "intelligence, vision, and ambition to lead MOCA forward;" Catherine Opie who declared herself "personally thrilled;" and Ed Ruscha who dubbed him "the most artist friendly and at the same time the most community friendly" candidate.

Richard Koshalek, a MOCA director in the 1980s, told the New York Times that, "The most important challenge for the new director is to raise the standard of expectations of the museum within this community and beyond, and that means new, original ideas for the future. If you don't raise expectations in every sense -- in terms of leadership, programs and such -- you will not have the chance to raise the funding needed for the museum to sustain itself programmatically and operationally going forward."

Koshalek, who began his career as a Walker curator in the 1970s, recently returned to L.A. after running the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D. C. for several years. In one of those small-world, musical-chairs coincidences endemic in the art community, the Walker's current director Olga Viso preceded Koshalek as director of the Hirshhorn.

Walker Art Center's chief curator to head Katonah, New York museum

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: January 14, 2014 - 1:56 PM
Darsie Alexander, Star Tribune photo by Bruce Bisping

Walker Art Center’s chief curator, Darsie Alexander, has been named executive director of the Katonah Museum of Art, a small but wide-ranging institution in Westchester County about 50 miles north of New York City. She starts work there March 1.

During her five-year tenure at the Walker, Alexander made her biggest splash with “Benches & Binoculars,” a whimsical installation of paintings and works-on-paper that were hung floor-to-ceiling in a two story gallery where visitors lounged on couches and peered at the art through binoculars. She brought in film auteur John Waters to guest curate "Absentee Landlord," a provocative redo of the Walker's collection. She also arranged the Walker’s purchase of the 3000-piece archive of the Merce Cunningham dance troupe which includes original objects and canvases by Pop-art stars Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. Her "Internatonal Pop" exhibition, three years-in-the-making, will open at the Walker in 2015.

The Walker has “no immediate plans for a search to fill [Alexander’s] post,” said Ryan French, the museum’s spokesperson. The museum is looking at it’s “overall structure” and considering “a number of different options,” he added.

The Katonah museum, nicknamed KMA, occupies a building designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes whose first  and most famous building is  the Walker’s 1971 brick-clad wing. Like the Walker, the KMA offers lectures, films, workshops and concerts as well as art exhibitions. Its shows encompass  “all cultures and time periods,” however, while the Walker focuses on modern and contemporary art. It attracts about 40,000 visitors annually, compared to the Walker which last year drew 265,000 people to exhibitions and events plus an additional 300,000 to the sculpture garden.

Previously Alexander was senior curator at the Baltimore Museum of Art. She began her career as a photo curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City after earning an M. A. in art history at Williams College. She and her husband David Little, photography curator at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, have two school-age daughters.

Veterans of the commuter-marriage routine, the couple are preparing to resume that life style when Alexander starts the Katonah job.

“I’m delighted for Darsie; it’s a great opportunity for her,” Little said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Asked if his own job was now in play, Little said “No. I’m here and committed here.”


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