Friday, June 5, 2009, 03:19 PMOn a snowy day last winter I was invited to be meet with 9 others in the field of historic architecture to pick the ten most endangered buildings in the state. The panel included architects, an anthropologist, architectural historian, representatives from the Minnesota Historical Society and the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota
It was actually a much more serious and engaging day than I would have expected. Although each of the possible structures had gone through a fairly rigourous nomination process we had to weigh each one carefully to decide not just the worthiness of the entry, but also possible benefits from listing, and if the structure or similar ones had been listed recently. In the end we each picked one building or structure to write up a description of for press releases and the Web. Of course I could not pass up the chance to work on the wonderful fish shaped building in Bena MN. Featured in a number of books on roadside Americana and in the introduction to the Chevy Chase movie National Lampoon Vacation it is certainly a structure worth preservation. Let’s hope that the nomination encourages the owner, town and the powers that be to help keep this wonderful landmark of vernacular architecture in repair.
Here is the full list for 2009: www.mnpreservation.org/programs/ten-most-endangered
As well as a great article from the Mpls Star Tribune about the list: www.startribune.com/local/44569787.html?elr=KArksUUUU
And more on the Bena Fish: www.roadsideamerica.com/blog/fish-landmarks-on-land
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Sunday, March 8, 2009, 04:36 PM
American Queen in Red Wing MN. Cell Phone Photograph ©2008 by David Husom
Living near a historic river town and transportation hub like Red Wing Minnesota means there is never a shortage of arriving and departing boats and trains. The Amtrak makes a stop in the morning on its way to Chicago and again at night on it journey to St. Paul and beyond to the West Coast. In the summer the visits of the Delta Queen, Mississippi and American Queens may not bring out the crowds like the steamboats did back in the days of Mark Twain. However you can always count on a non-stop trickle of visitors to the docks when one of these wonderful ships makes an appearance. As of last fall the boats even used Red Wing as its upper Mississippi River terminus, forgoing St. Paul for the more inviting streets of Red Wing, and spending the night here.
While traveling down the Mississippi River during its last voyage I grabbed a quick cell phone of the steamboat American Queen landing at the port of Red Wing. Looking at the photos recently I discovered that the combination of tipping the camera up to include the ship stacks, the motion of my boat heading the opposite direction, and the poor quality electronic shutter of my cell phone, gives the American Queen, the appearance that it is tipping and starting to sink (was this an omen?). The American Queen, like its sister ship, the famed Delta Queen, are awaiting sale as the owners struggle financially. As of a few days ago it was decided that the Delta Queen would spend the summer as a floating hotel in Chattanooga Tennessee. I guess that is better than being sold for scrap. But let us hope that all three of the riverboats return to the Mississippi waterways soon.
For information on saving the historic Delta Queen visit: www.save-the-delta-queen.org
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Friday, January 23, 2009, 04:31 PMPhotographs I have taken in Southeastern Minnesota and Western Wisconsin over the past 5 years are now on exhibit at the Anderson Center in Red Wing MN. The exhibition, titled American Heartland, is a two person exhibit with William Pringle Rodman. Rodman, a Minneapolis photographer, has been photographing in many of the same areas in Minnesota and Wisconsin during the past few years. All of the photographs in the exhibit were made with film. I shoot 4X5 color but do make digital pigment prints. Bill Rodman shoots 35mm black and white film and makes conventional darkroom prints.
The gallery is open 9-4 Mon -Thur and 9-12 on Fri. The show is up through March 13th. . National Geographic Traveler magazine recently named the Anderson Center, along with the Walker Art Center, Weisman Museum, Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Guthrie theatre as one of the five most important arts institutions in Minnesota. Click on the image above left to see a larger version of the exhibition announcement. See the Anderson Center Website for more information
Photograph of the opening by Michael Lougee Copyright 2009. Click on the image on the left to see a larger photograph.
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Friday, August 1, 2008, 12:25 AMAs is bring covered in both the Minnesota media and photo and art blogs across the country, the Minnesota Center for Photography closed its doors today. MCP began as pARTS, a small gallery above an auto body shop that had a certain charm in spite of its smelling like paint so bad you often felt you needed an oxygen mask to enter. It then moved to a basement on Lake Street and eventually became MCP. A third move took them to a beautiful gallery in a former photo studio in the up and coming art neighborhood of Northeast Minneapolis. For the sake of full disclosure I will say I was in a group show at each of the first and second locations, and taught two classes in the darkroom during their first year at the final location. I never had any official connection to the organization however, so these are my own thoughts as a former Minnesota photographer who now lives nearby in Wisconsin (and since I am ineligible for most of the benefits of the MN fine art photo world, I am just an innocent bystander— but, with a bit of history).
Although the closing is being presented as a surprise by some, rumors have been circulating for months. And although it is being presented as a sign of the economy or lackluster fundraising, the rumors have pointed to excessive spending, using operating budget funds for programing, staff conflict (that one is at least 10 years old however), overly ambitious shows of international photography (the recent Three Gorges China show is often mentioned), or the move to the more expensive space four years ago. However, I think there was a bigger problem—lack of support from the Minnesota photo community.
News reports point to the broad based support MCP had in the community, however discussions I have had over the years with board members and staff have pointed to the opposite. On a couple of occasions in recent years I had sent students to events at MCP. When I asked their impressions, they invariably came back and reported the same thing: "It was just a bunch of old people." I am reminded of a friend in Japan who used to say, in less than perfect English, "It is the taste of old men." I know this was not just a MCP problem. At another arts institution in Minneapolis I had a friend approach me at an opening and exclaim: "Photography is alive and well in Minneapolis, just look at the crowd here." I looked around, and upon not seeing anyone under 50 said: "It may not be dead yet, but if you stand on your tiptoes you can see the end in this room." Where were the young photographers? I would guess they were just not very interested in much of what MCP had to offer, nor did they feel a part of it. Maybe if MCP had not turned its back on the young local photographers and paid so much attention (and money it seems) to out of town talent it would have gotten more support.
A bigger issue however is that the Minnesota fine art photography scene has always had a heavy dose of animosity hanging in the air. This is another topic a board member and a former staff member told me in private. Some blame it on the perception of too much grant money going to the same few people. Or a variation on that, the same people being asked to show their work at invitational or "juried" shows—the MCP Photo Lotto / Bravo being a case in point for many in the community. Others blame the lack of support for local artists from the Walker, or the second class status of local artists at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Still others see the sometimes nasty competition between the University of Minnesota's Art Department and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. The removal of the McKnight Grant from the U of MN and moving it to MCP also brought forth an attack of venom in the community over the past few years. (Again for disclosure, I did teach full time at the U of MN Art department, and classes and workshops at MCAD, but left them both over a dozen years ago. I also was in Photo Lotto / Bravo a few times, but not at the current location, and got my McKnight Grant back when Film in the Cities gave them out over 20 years ago).
Is this problem just the way photographers are? According to a former staff member, and from what I have seen, the ill will of Minneapolis fine art photographers is not present in other cities; Los Angeles being a perfect example. Nor do I see it amongst the artists of out-state Minnesota or rural Wisconsin where I now live. In fact I see just the opposite; we all work together for the joint good of the local arts community. I certainly did not see problems amongst commercial photographers in Minnesota when I was on the board of the Minnesota Commercial Industrial Photographer Association. From photo journalists I also hear of the strong support they often give one another. So what is up with the Twin Cites fine art photographers? Maybe it is time to take a good hard look at WHY.
Here are just a few of the stories:
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Friday, July 18, 2008, 10:04 PMGoing under the bridge on the back channel of the Mississippi River last night. The swallows have left their mud nests now. It is amazing they stay up there with all the traffic and road construction this year. Cell phone photo by David Husom. Copyright 2008 by David Husom.
Lake Pepin in the spring. Mississippi River flooding had kept the boats from going into the harbors yet, so it is a very peaceful scene. Cell phone photo by David Husom. Copyright 2008 by David Husom
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