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Elizabeth Armstrong, Minneapolis Institute of Arts curator. Star Tribune photo by Marlin Levison
A dynamic personality who brought a casual style and keen intellect to her job, Armstrong joined the Minneapolis museum in August 2008 to head a new department of contemporary art and to serve as the museum's assistant director for exhibitions and programs, then a new post. The museum had previously collected contemporary art, but in a haphazard way that left huge gaps in its holdings along with masterpieces by Francis Bacon, Chuck Close, Philip Guston, Frank Stella, Cy Twombly and others.
Armstrong focused the acquisition program on contemporary works that extended or interacted in unexpected ways with the museum's holdings of traditional art. Key purchases included a photo by Yinke Shonibare, a British-Nigerian photographer whose staged pictures pose provocative questions about colonialism among other issues.
At the MIA Armstrong also founded the Center for Alternative Museum Practice (CAMP), a department that experiments with fresh ways to mix contemporary and traditional art and to engage the public in its appreciation and understanding. She raised $4 million for new acquisitions and curated a number of key exhibitions including "Global Remix I," " What is Sacred?," "More Real: Art in the Age of Truthiness," and "Until Now: Collecting the New (1960-2010)."
In Palm Springs she will oversee a museum that operates from three sites. The main facility is the Palm Springs Art Museum, a 150,000 sq ft. building in the city's center. That entity has a satelite of the same name in Palm Desert and an Architecture and Design Center, Edwards Harris Pavilion which just opened just opened on Sunday, Nov. 9.
Armstrong succeeds Dr. Steven Nash who oversaw the Palm Springs museum's growth starting in 2007. He is responsible for adding the two satellite locations.
Prior to her tenure at the MIA, Armstrong was Acting Director and Chief Curator at the Orange County Museum of Art (2001-2008) and Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego (1996-2001). She spent 14 years at Walker Art Center as an associate curator (1982-1996), and before that worked in various capacities doing research and curatorial assistance at museums in Berkeley and San Francisco, California and as a grants administrator at the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington, D. C. She earned a B. A. in American Studies from Hampshire College in Amherst, MA and a M.A. in art history from the University of California, Berkeley.
Among Armstrong's award winning publications are the books Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury, and American Moderns: Villa America, 1900-1950 which showcased highlights from the collection of the late Myron Kunin, a Minneapolis-based arts patron and influential mentor to Armstrong and others.
Alexa Horochowski's 2014 installation at The Soap Factory. Star Tribune photo by Tom Sweeney
A lot has changed in the 25 years since The Soap Factory art complex started life as No Name Exhibitions.The popoular outpost for Halloween fun and experimental art is celebrating its quarter century anniversary with a benefit party from 6 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, Nov. 15 in its cavernous, brick-and-timber warehouse, a former soap factory, at 514 S.E. Second St., Minneapolis.
The Factory's presence there has been a spur to development in what is now a fast-gentrifying neighborhood near the Mississippi River. Back in 1989, what is now a rough-hew home to avant garde art was still a functioning factory.
"There have been a lot of changes in this building," said Ben Heywood, executive director of The Soap Factory. "Back then they were literally melting down animals and turning them into fat and then throwing lye into it and turning it into soap."
Back then a group of local artists banded together and started No Name Exhibitions in another quasi derelict building known as the Skunk House. On the opposite side of the Mississippi and just west of Hennepin Av., the Skunk House was subsequently acquired by the Federal Reserve bank to house its air conditioning plant, Heywood said. No Name then moved into the bottling house of the former Grain Belt Brewery and from there to the Soap Factory in 1995.
"Our exhibition space went from 600 square feet to 50,000 square feet when we moved here, so that's a big change," Heywood said.
The Factory building is still pretty raw, but it too has changed over the years. Now, for example, it has bathrooms. And in January it will add heating and air conditioning for the basement and first floor. Previously the place closed in winter months when there was no heat.
Other improvements include the addition of a permanent staff, rather than volunteers who ran the place until 2002. With staff came a year-round exhibition and performance program. And the ever-popular Haunted Basement Halloween shindig. And now the 25th anniversary party.
Billed as a "day of citywide fun," the anniversary committee may have overpromised a bit. There won't be hot air balloons or marching bands on Nicollet Mall, much as Heywood would love such stuff. By "city-wide" they mean art impressario and cultural gadabout Andy Sturdevant leading a Soap Factory History tour starting at 3 p.m. Saturday in a vintage bus that will roll past previous Factory locales.
"Andy is a city-wide celebration in himself," Heywood explained. Indeed.
The Factory invited 9,000 people to the shindig and expects a good turn out.
"We can hold 700 people on the first floor and we should have a full house," Heywood said.
Party goers can expect Beatrix* JAR and Solid Gold to kick off the event with DJs Diarrhea (Jackie Beckey) and Christopher Saint Christopher (Christopher Allen) commanding the dance floor and emcee Ian Rans running the show.
There will be complimentary cocktails by Bittercube, gourmet nibbles from Fabulous Catering and Common Roots catering, small plates from Tilia, Heyday, Haute Dish, Third Bird, and the University of MN College of Design. Plus art by Aaron Dysart and Andy DuCett. Performances by artist Jaime Carrera and theater company Live Action Set. Plus an auction, of course.
(Party 6 p.m. to midnight, Nov, 15, tickets $50 to $2,000. The Soap Factory, 514 Second St. S.E., Mpls. For tickets: www.soapfactory.org)
Myron Kunin, Star Tribune file photo
Sotheby's will auction 164 pieces from the African art collection of Minneapolis hair-salon magnate Myron Kunin at 10 a.m. November 11 in New York City.
In a video "In Pursuit of Beauty: The Myron Kunin Collection of African Art," prepared by Sotheby's and Alexandre Gallery, art dealers from Paris, New York and elsewhere describe Kunin's African collection as among the world's best. Objects to be auctioned range from a Baule bronze turtle from the Ivory Coast that's estimated to sell for between $2,000 and $3,000 (Lot. # 38) to a Senufo Female Statue (Lot #48) for which the estimated price is available "upon request." Based on the prices of other top lots, the latter estimate is most likely auction-code for more than $2 million.
Other high-end pieces include a Kongo-Yombe carving of a maternity group (Lot #95) estimated at $1.5 to $2 million; a Ngbaka statue (Lot # 119) estimated at $1.2 million to $1.8 million; and a Songye Janus-head sculpture (Lot #141) estimated to sell for between $1 million and $1.5 million.
In the Twin Cities, where Kunin was a long time supporter of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, he is best known for his collection of early 20th century American art, portions of which have often been loaned to the museum. He also provided money for the Regis Center for Art at the University of Minnesota and funded a lecture and exhibition program at the Northern Clay Center.
Kunin's fortune derived from the Regis Corporation, a hair salon business started by his father in the 1920s which Myron subsequently bought and built into a $2.7 billion business with 9,763 salons in the United States, England and France. Or, as the Sotheby's video describes it, "the world's first billion dollar hair care business."
A life-long and passionate art collector, Kunin (1928 - 2013) was a modest guy with an exceedingly shrewd and highly educated eye for art. He never paid the least bit of attention to what was fashionable or flashy, but instead followed his instinct and heart. Often that led him to acquire art that was currently out of vogue and therefore less pricey. But he was equally willing to pay top dollar when a rare and splendid piece was available. One of the dealers recalled that you never needed to sign a contract when you did a deal with Myron Kunin; he was very much a handshake kind of guy.
The Sotheby's experts describe Kunin's African collection as his second most important after his holdings of early 20th century American art which range from paintings by Georgia O'Keeffe to Guy Pene Du Bois and Gerald Murphy. He also occasionally dipped into Old Masters and 19th century British paintings.
Ojibwe artist Delina White who specializes in traditonal beadwork.
Four artist Midwestern American Indian artists have received fellowships worth up to $20,000 each from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF), a non-profit organization based in Vancouver, Washington.
Winners of the NACF Regional Artist Fellowships are: Kevin Pourier, a carver of buffalo horn ornaments that range from sculptures to eyeglass frames. A member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, he is a Lakota from Scenic, S.D. Jennifer Stevens, a painter, potter and vocalist from Green Bay, Wisconsin who is a member of the Oneida Tribe. Delina White, an expert in traditional beadwork who lives in Deer River, MN and is a member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. Star Wallowing Bull, an Ojibwe/Arapaho who is a member of the White Earth Band of Chippewa. He lives in Moorhead, MN and is known for his pop-style paintings and drawings of American Indian subjects and motifs. Wallowing Bull's work is regularly shown at Bockley Gallery in Minneapolis.
NACF is a national nonprofit that supports the appreciation and perpetuation of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian arts and cultures. With money from Native Nations, arts patrons and foundations, NACF has provided nearly $1.7 million in assistance to 89 native artists and organizations in 23 states.
The NACF Regional Artist Fellowship Program is an annual award open to artists in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North and South Dakota who are enrolled members of one of the 37 tribes located in the region and who work in visual or traditional art forms. The awards are made possible by support from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation.
In related news, the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation also supported a new Native American Artist-in-Residence program at the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS). Three artists were picked in August, each of whom will be paid during a six month residency, to study collections at the MNHS and elsewhere that are related to their work. They will also develop programs to share their studies within their home communities. The artists are Jessica Gokey, a bead work artist who lives in Wisconsin's Lac Courte Oreilles community; Pat Kruse, a birch-bark artist from Mille Lacs, MN; and Gwen Westerman, a textile artist from Good Thunder, MN who is of Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate heritage.
Dr. Michael Adams, son of photographer Ansel Adams
Ansel Adams' son, Dr. Michael Adams, will discuss his Dad's photography and life at Winona State University at 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 24. The talk is presented in conjunction with "Classic Images: Ansel Adams Photography," an exhibit at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum (MMAM) in Winona. The talk is free but is expected to be so popular that its location has been shifted from a small hall to the main stage of WSU's Performing Arts Center. Parking should be available in the Gold Lot at the conrner of Mark and Main Streets.
Dr. Adams will recount his father's life and career starting with his childhood, obsessions with piano and photography, his climbing and camping in Yosemite, and the background of "Moonrise, Hernandez," one of his most famous photos.
Michael Adams is a retired physician and retired major general in the U.S. Air Force.
The talk is co-sponsored by the Marine Art Museum where more than 70 famous Adams images are on view through Jan. 11. All of the photos were printed by Adams himself and include such familiar and iconic images as "Mount McKinley and Wonder Lake," and the Half Dome series.
Ansel Adams, "Mount McKinley and Wonder Lake, Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska," 1947
The Minnesota Marine Art Museum is located on banks of the Mississippi River at 800 Riverview Drive, Winona, 507-474-6626 or www.mmam.org.
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