Above: Abbe with life-sized cardboart cutouts of Henri Matisse at the Minneapolis Institute of Art in 2014. (Photo by Glen Stubbe for the Star Tribune)
Former Star Tribune art critic and reporter Mary Abbe was one of nine arts journalists across the country to receive a $50,000 award from the Rabkin Foundation.
Abbe, who retired in 2016, worked for Walker Art Center before beginning her Star Tribune career in 1984, writing features, news, profiles, exhibition reviews, and art-themed travel stories to Europe, particularly Italy and France.
She said that the nomination “came out of the blue” and couldn’t believe it when she got the call. A museum professional nominated her for the award. Because of the global COVID-19 crisis, the foundation released the funds immediately, skipping celebrations or formalities.
For Abbe, the award feels more like a tribute to Minnesota’s museums, galleries and artists.
“Without this vibrant, diverse, quirky, aspirational, sophisticated, and sometimes challenging art community there wouldn’t be anything for a critic/reporter to write about,” she said. “So I’m very grateful to all of them.”
When asked how she kept writing all those years, she said: “I didn’t really do anything but keep typing.”
Abbe’s first art review was published in 1977 by the Chicago Reader. Before joining the Star Tribune, she was public information director at the Walker Art Center, associate editor of Twin Cities magazine, and a copywriter at the University of Chicago Press. Until her retirement from the Star Tribune, she was a Midwest correspondent for ARTnews magazine. The Minnesota chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists honored her with awards for her arts criticism and travel writing in 1989, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2004.
The Portland, Maine-based Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Foundation is in its fourth year of grant giving. This year’s winners include art magazine Hyperallergic staff writer Seph Rodney, West Coast culture writer Amanda Fortini, and San Antonio-based Glasstire writer Neil Fauerso.