The multi-tasking Minneapolis life of art curator and teacher Sara Cluggish sometimes seems like that of a wedding planner.
“Each project is kind of like a mini-wedding,” she said. “There are so many small details that need to be taken care of and thought through carefully, leading up to this opening-day energy.”
This is her life as the director of FD13 residency for the arts in Minneapolis-St. Paul, a program that brings national and international artists to the Twin Cities roughly four times a year, often pairing them with local artists to create site-specific projects and performances.
On Saturday, FD13 welcomes Chicago-based sculptor Diane Simpson, who is part of this year’s prestigious Whitney Biennial in New York. At age 83, she’s coming to Minneapolis for her first-ever live piece, working with local choreographer Chris Schlichting on a performance called “Architecture in Motion.”
Two dancers will wear sculptural costumes based on the Art Deco-styled Jemne Building in downtown St. Paul. Simpson encountered it when visiting a few months ago, and was taken by the curvilinear shapes of the building, designed by Magnus Jemne and originally opened in 1931 as the Women’s City Club.
“The first thing that really struck me was the curving railing going from the top floor down to the bottom, which was a continuous curve, like a Mobius curve,” said Simpson. “I was excited about that railing, [so] I used the idea of a Mobius curve to construct the skirt area of the costume.”
Although the artist is often inspired by clothing, her work has never been wearable: “This was the first time that my sculpture had to actually sit on a human being.”
FD13 inspired her to change it up. That’s part of the ethos of the residency — to give artists a chance to try something for the first time.
In April 2018 when FD13 hosted British artist Marianna Simnett, whose video work “The Needle and the Larynx” is currently on view in the Walker Art Center exhibition “The Body Electric,” she presented her first-ever play.
The program was started in 2014 by German-born curator Sandra Teitge, who found herself in the Twin Cities after her husband moved here to take a job in advertising.
To help build an international community for herself, she launched FD13 out of a 19th-century St. Paul firehouse that had been converted into a studio and residence (the name stands for Fire Department 13).
Cluggish, who teaches art history, criticism and theory at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and also manages a private collection, joined FD13 as a guest curator after moving to Minneapolis in 2016, then took over last year from Teitge, who currently runs the Goethe in the Skyways pop-up gallery in downtown Minneapolis.
A nimble organization with a board of only four people and a budget of about $5,000 per visiting artist, it doesn’t rent office space, which keeps costs low. A mix of in-kind contributions, donated venues and other organizational sponsors also helps out.
FD13 likes to pair internationally known artists with local practitioners or spaces. In March 2018, when Berlin-based artist Johanna Hedva, who was raised in Los Angeles by a family of witches, came to town, they quickly found community at the Future, an arts project space and market in the heart of south Minneapolis’ “witch district.” Their project included astrological readings and a discussion about sickness, care, disability and healing.
Cluggish has a marked British softness to her voice; she grew up in Cincinnati but received her MFA from Goldsmith’s in the U.K., where she lived for seven years. She is something of a jet-setter herself, having recently returned from the Venice Biennale in Italy and a series of curatorial workshops in Australia with her husband, Walker curator Pavel Pyś.
Although FD13 is not a full-time gig, it’s definitely her passion project, and one she says will continue at least as long as she and Pyś remain in the Twin Cities.
“I just want to grow it,” she said. “I want to keep investigating neighborhoods, communities, different areas in both Minneapolis and St. Paul. Really what we hinge on is liveness in all its forms.”