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The Curator Is In, November 3, 2011

Posted on by sbernhardt

MIA: Our curators are now online and ready for your questions. Ask away!

Michael D.: O.K. Your first day on the job, you’re walking about the MIA and you see something and you say to yourself, “What is that doing here? Good grief!” Did that ever happen to you?
Erika Holmquist-Wall: More than I can count. Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes it’s a bad thing.. It keeps us on our toes!

Mary F.: I’d like to see an exhibit highlighting the museum’s core collections, like the bequests from James J. Hill & family. Also, who picked the name “Edo Pop” for the current show? Lame. Sounds like a snack made of raw soybeans.
Corine Wegener: Sure, when you have multiple departments and 20 or so curators there are always other perspectives.
Erika Holmquist-Wall: Hi Mary – that’s a great idea! Gallery 321 is the “Hill Gallery”, with a special label discussing Hill’s personal collection and the importance of his bequests. Of course, hosting special exhibitions with the permanent collection is difficult, since we don’t want to strip the permanent galleries!
Patrick Noon: Mary, James J . Hill died intestate. All the paintings in his collection were distributed by lottery among his many children. Over the years a number of those pictures were donated or bequeathed by his children. Almost all of the paintings in the MIA from the Hill collection are on view in the galleries, unless, like the Delacroixs, they are presently on loan to an exhibition somewhere else.
Mary F.: Very interesting, Hard to believe Hill died intestate. I’ll revisit Gallery 321, Erica. It’s always amazing to me that a city as relatively small and isolated as Minneapolis-St. Paul at the turn of the 20th century gave rise to such wonderful collections and museums.
One painting that always intrigues me is Corot’s “La Liseuse” which is kind of in a hallway. It seems so brooding compared to much of his work. I know it came from a Hill descendant.
Erika Holmquist-Wall: Yes, that is a lovely work. Most of the Corots came to us through the Hill family.

Emily B.: Do you have any suggestions for Art/Art History magazines/blogs/podcasts?
Erika Holmquist-Wall: The Art Newspaper,, Tyler Green’s blog, hyperallergic blog,, Burlington Magazine, Apollo magazine….the list is endless!

Andrew N.: What’s new in the permanent collection to show a group of students since last fall? what’s your favorite piece to ”

MIA: Let’s start with some of last month’s unanswered questions…Star W.B.: Why are Museums closed on Monday’s?
Michael D.: Because museum curators belong to the barber’s union.
Corine Wegener: Most museums need at least one day per week when the staff are working but we’re not open to the public so we can do collections maintenance, install exhibitions, do training, etc.
Whittier S.: Follow-up (speaking as a former museum employee)–why Monday, and not some other day of the week?
Corine Wegener: I think Mondays are just considered traditionally slower days for visitorship
Deena E.: Is it because Mondays are the same days that theaters are traditionally “dark”?

Carey P.: In the art history feild, where are some of the best schools for a grad program? Would studying abroad for grad school look good when looking for a job?
Heidi Q.: Wouldn’t that entirely depend on which field of Art History you want to study?
Christopher Atkins: Carey P. To answer your question re: graduate schools…it depends on what you are studying, what you want out of your education, and how you want to leverage yourself. If you’re interested in studying abroad, I would highly recommend it, but your decision should not be about whether it looks good on your resume and more about what scholars you’ll be studying with and what kind of curriculum you want. So, if you’re looking for a curatorial program you can eliminate a lot of schools right away. And if you want an art history program, same thing. If you’re interested in contemporary art and visual cultures, I’ll always recommend my alma mater, Goldsmiths College.
Corine Wegener: Some top art history programs include NYU, Williams College, Courtauld in the UK. For decorative arts some good programs are the Winterthur program in American Decorative Arts at University of Delaware and Bard Graduate Center in NY.

Sean D.: Describe the audiences that come to the museum.
Erika Holmquist-Wall: In a meeting this morning, my colleague, Joe Horse Capture, talked about our audiences as “encyclopedic”. I like that notion – we’re an encyclopedic collection…why shouldn’t our audiences follow?
Christopher Atkins: This morning I walked into the 3rd Avenue entrance and it was packed with kids. And buses have been dropping off school groups all day long!
Corine Wegener: It runs the gamut, and you will see totally different audiences in different parts of the museum. Third Thursdays feel completely different than Target Family Day.

Sean D.: Does censorship exist within the curatorial process at the MIA? Why/why not? Does corporate sponsorship influence this at all?
Christopher Atkins: I would like to respond but I’ve been told not to answer this question.
Corine Wegener: I wouldn’t say we face censorship, but we do go through a sort of peer review process for exhibitions, publications, and acquisitions. Corporate sponsorship may determine whether or not we can afford to do an exhibition or not, but they don’t enter into the creative realm of the exhibition.

Sean D.: What have you learned about the art communities of Minneapolis?
Christopher Atkins: I’ve learned that they love art, they are making lots of art, they are a tight knit group, and they want people to buy more art.

Eric W.: Besides the MIA and the Walker, what’s your favorite museum or art-related place to visit in Minnesota?
Erika Holmquist-Wall: I love the American Swedish Institute! The Hillstrom at Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter, Minnesota. The Tweed in Duluth. The Marine Museum in Winona is a real gem!
Lisa D.: The art crawls or First Thursdays in NE
Bruce C.: Minnetonka Center for the Arts, Northern Clay Center and Highpoint Center for Printmaking.
Adam K.: Museum of Russian Art
Mika M.: What is one museum you have never been to that you would like to visit?
Stuart E.: I would second the art crawls such as “Art Attack” or “Art-a-Whirl” for more local art-related venues. They aren’t museums, but wow are some really interesting artists out there.
Corine Wegener: The Hermitage.
Eric J.: Soapbox, SOOVac, and there’s a special place in my heart for the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth
Charlotte C.: TMORA and the MCAD student art sale.
Corine Wegener: Oops, my colleagues tell me that question was supposed to be limited to Minnesota. I haven’t been to the Tweed in Duluth and need to go.
Jon Midwestern B.: Franconia Sculpture Park for sure
Paulette A.: Foster Art Vault in Hammond, Wi celebrating its 15th Anniversary on November 12th!!! Fifteen of the greatest artists in our area exhibiting. Check us out on fb.

Sean D.: What are the current debates regarding the role of museums in the 21st century? Where do you stand?
Erika Holmquist-Wall: Relevancy. How do we keep our collections relevant, and how do we stay relevant to our audiences?
Jan-Lodewijk Grootaers: How do we expand our audiences — to younger people, to people who have not yet found the way to the museum, etc. Also, how to integrate a quickly evolving technologies in enhancing art experiences.
Kristen A.: Affordable field trips! Access in rural areas! School teacher here.

Sean D.: Can or should all art exist within a museum? Why/why not?
Christopher Atkins: Of course not. There wouldn’t be enough gallery space to put it on display or in storage.
Mıchele A.: I think they all “can”, but I don’t know about “should” because it sounds like only museums are entitled to exhibit art.
Elisha A.: It can’t and shouldn’t. Art should be everywhere. And just because something IS in a museum, that fact alone doesn’t necessarily mean it’s art either. Just as the art in museums is subjective, so is the art outside museums.
Threse M.: No! Art in the Everyday!
Sarah H.: One: Not all art is as tangible and finite as painting and sculpture. Art comes in many, many forms.
Two: If all existed only in museums, no one could enjoy it in their homes.

MIA: Thanks for all the great questions today. Our curators will be back again next month, Dec. 1, 1-2 pm. CST.

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