November 2012


There is no denying it: exciting things are happening in St. Paul. The efforts of Mayor Chris Coleman to make St. Paul “cool” (though many stalwart St. Paulites would argue that it already was cool) since he was elected into office in 2005 have begun to produce results in earnest. The number of new art and cultural venues has reached a critical mass capable of generating its own momentum. For the past three years St. Paul has been without an art museum. The Minnesota Museum of American Art’s celebration of a new Project Space on December 1 is an important milestone in the city’s cultural renaissance.

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As the name suggests, the MMAA Project Space is a different kind of space, and represents a new era of experimentation for the museum. The Project Space will be a laboratory for trying out new kinds of programming, curating, and presenting. Curator of Engagement Christina Chang has been charged with organizing exhibitions and bringing in new interdisciplinary partners for fresh and unexpected collaborations. Some of the exciting projects in development include:


  • a monthly forum for Lowertown artists to present the work of fellow artists they admire,
  • a film series featuring local filmmakers and exclusive screenings,
  • a music series featuring local bands that have a particular affinity to the visual arts,
  • an afterschool program that links up with St. Paul Public Schools’ curriculum,
  • and an exhibition on D.I.Y. printing in partnership with several local print collectives.


Most importantly, all of the Project Space’s activities will ultimately be driven and sustained by the local community. Access is the operative word. It is not by chance that the Project Space is located on the Central Corridor in the heart of St. Paul’s “Cultural District.” We are working with community leaders and organizers to come up with the right programs. The decision-making and planning process will be opened up to the diverse experiences, voices, and abilities that make up the great city of St. Paul.


The MMAA Project Space’s first exhibition, Painting the Place Between, is particularly fitting, given the museum’s priority of showcasing local art and demonstrating the continued relevance of MMAA’s fine collection of American art. The exhibition originates from an eponymous documentary film project by Gustavus Adolphus College art professor Kristen Lowe. Lowe’s film follows four Minnesota painters as they struggle to express their sensory experience of the Minnesota landscape in the material of paint. The exhibition, co-curated by Chang, features the work of these four artists, as well as additional pieces that likewise capture the feel of a place. The title is especially meaningful, since the MMAA Project Space is the “place between” the old MMAA and the new one, which we hope will find a permanent home in the Pioneer Building in the future.


Painting the Place Between features paintings from Minnesota artists Betsy Byers, Jil Evans, Holly Swift, Song Yer Thao, and Andrew Wykes, augmented by paintings from the Minnesota Museum of American Art collection by Dewey Albinson, Charles Beck, Bette Carlon, George Morrison, David Rich, and Phyllis Wiener.


Click here to view the Painting the Place Between trailer.


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Project Space Preview Weekend Image Gallery


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Questions? Comments?
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Painting the Place Between exhibition information and related pop-up programming,

click here

The Project Space is sponsored in part by the John and Ruth Huss Fund, Lowertown Future Fund, National Endowment for the Arts, and Science Museum of Minnesota.


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