Top Ten Things That Brought Me Joy in 2012
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Top Ten Things That Brought Me Joy in 2012

2012 was a crazy year.  I will remember it as a year filled with many unexpected and delightful events, including the opportunity to speak at a TEDx conference, the release of the Open Field book and talking seriously about internet cats to serious media outlets.  It was a year for new projects, ideas, spaces and directions. Here are ten things that I found intriguing, challenging and most of all brought a little joy in 2012.

National Geographic Room at Why We Do This
National Geographic Room in Why We Do This

Andy Ducett: Why We Do This at the Soap Factory:  Featuring a working thrift shop and record store, arcade, Northern Wisconsin bar, chunk of an airliner, bubble wrap tunnel, Fabio dude handing out flowers and a life-size Construx corner, Andy Ducett‘s exhibition was an event.  The installation playfully tackled the daunting Soap Factory space and transformed it into a generation specific snapshot of the Upper Midwest. The resulting piece was brilliant, accessible and most of all fun.

RACA: Rural American Contemporary Art (RACA) has a slogan: Making Nowhere Into Somewhere. While the “nowhere” is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, there is a real challenge for artists working outside urban art centers. RACA started with a Facebook page led by Mankato artist and professor Brian Frink and grew to include exhibitions, an online magazine (RACAonline) and more projects in the works for 2013. RACA has turned the perceived disadvantage of location into an asset by gathering a loose network of rural contemporary artists to not just talk, but to make things happen.


ROLU: When Does Something Become Something Else? The Apparent is the Bridge to the Real: ROLU‘s two week Open Field residency at the Walker was one of the most conceptual and simultaneously accessible projects hosted in the three years of the project. The residency included participatory and performative moments centered around the Walker’s collection and  revealing the process in which art is produced. From re-creating artworks from the Walker’s collection on the field, to opening an alternative “gallery shop” inside the museum to inviting guests to re-shoot an Alec Soth photograph from a diorama, ROLU demonstrated  that often the best way to learn about something is to make it yourself.


Jehra Patrick: Inescapable Support at the Rochester Art Center: One of the pleasures of working in the arts is watching young artists develop a voice, produce strong work and receive well deserved recognition.  Jehra is a colleague at, a friend and an amazing painter.  She killed it this year with exhibitions at the Rochester Art Center, Soo Vac and her Jerome Fellowship exhibition at MCAD.  I think its  just a taste of what is coming in 2013.

The Internet Cat Video Festival: On a warm August evening we put up a screen in our backyard to watch some You Tube videos and over 10,000 people showed up. The Internet Cat Video Festival or #catvidfest was the oddest and most amazing event on which I have worked. What started as Katie Hill’s wish in last year’s “best of 2011” blog, grew into a surreal summer of  viral videos, media interviews and a stunning embrace from a worldwide audience.  The craziness has continued through the fall and is spilling out into 2013 including a speaking engagement at SXSW in March on how this event didn’t destroy art, but did raise questions around crowd sourced curation and the relevance of museum in the age of You Tube.  For the 2013 festival we will attempt to destroy art.


Fresh Spaces: (David Peterson Gallery, TuckUnder Projects, Public Functionary, Bindery Projects): New spaces seems to popping up with regularity in the Twin Cities coming from both established names and fresh faces.  Each of these projects has a different approach to showing interesting and emerging work as well as strategies to survive. Its a time of transition as more conventional artist space models evolve and new platforms emerge. We need more of this activity to thrive in the coming year and hopefully its the start of a trend. Support them.


Lifelike at the Walker Art Center: My favorite show at the Walker show since The Quick and the Dead.


Midway Contemporary Art Library Expansion:  The Midway Library is expanding and becoming a premier resource for artists, art enthusiasts and students.  Founded in 2007 the Midway Library continues to expand and house rare, hard to find and out of print monographs, exhibition catalogs and the library contains thousands of titles from a wide range of publishers from around the world. While group exhibition catalogs and monographs form the core of the library’s collection, the library also contains reference material, a selection of artist books, DVD’s, and an extensive selection of periodicals and journals. I need to spend more time here in 2013.


Artists Having Kids: I find it very encouraging to see so many artists balancing the demands of family and their art career. I don’t think this is trend, I just am more aware of it as I get older, have my own kid and have more friends having kids. While it is exhausting, sometimes frustrating and dominates your time, it is also energizing, inspiring and provides a grounding (or reality check) to life.  From my very biased observations, I think we are going to have a strong group of young artists in about twenty years. Although I am still pushing for my kid to be a left-handed relief pitcher.

Boots and Cats.  Best thing I discovered in 2012.

HONORABLE MENTION: Silverwood Park, Burning an Andy Warhol autograph at The Northern Spark Festival, work  by Peter Happel Christian, Amanda Lovelee, Miguel Calderón, David Rathman, Joe Sinness, Jason Pearson, Icona Pop, My Little Free Library, Lunalux, and Fulton Beer.


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