Students to have “A Continued Presence” at the MIA

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Carla Rodriguez and Ethan Holbrook stand in the rotunda where they’ve created a sound piece for the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

For two seniors at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, making the journey from student to “legitimate artist” involved a trek of just a few hundred feet.

Carla Rodriguez and Ethan Holbrook beat out 17 other proposals by their peers – including graduate students – for the opportunity to create a site specific piece for the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. This is the first round in what is expected to be an ongoing collaboration between the school and the museum.

The piece, which is situated in the second floor Target rotunda (see image below), is a sound installation. Called “A Continued Presence,” it features the sound of Rodriguez running around the rotunda with bare feet (Holbrook and Rodriguez were allowed into the museum after hours to make the recording). The sound is just loud enough that it doesn’t seem like an intrusion, but gradually grabs your attention.

“It’s an activation of the space,” says Holbrook. “I’d like to think that it will make the viewer aware of this space, the architecture, of the building.”

“I feel like a lot of people aren’t going to notice it,” says Rodriguez, “which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It depends on how aware they are in that moment.”

Rodriguez is primarily a photographer, and Holbrook a filmmaker, so this project was a stretch for both of them.

MIA curator Christopher Atkins says the space the students chose is an area most people just pass through moving from one gallery to the next, but he believes the sound installation will get people to stop and notice their surroundings a little more.

“It’s kind of creepy – you can hear it from all three floors,” says Atkins. “And it’s also breaking the rules – you can’t run in a museum!”

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The second floor Target rotunda in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Carla Rodriguez ran barefoot around the rotunda for 25 minutes while Ethan Holbrook recorded to create “A Continued Presence.”

Image courtesy of the MIA

The students were also inspired by tales of certain rooms in the museum being haunted (ghosts?! plan to read more on that topic on this blog sometime soon), and liked the idea of creating a sound piece that was in essance an echo of what had once happened there.

While both Holbrook and Rodriguez have both shown their work in exhibitions organized by MCAD, this is their first real exposure to life as professionals. Their proposal was selected in December, and they’ve been working with the museum for the past two months to create and install the piece.

“I’m ecstatic that we could do something like this with the museum,” says Rodriguez. “You get into kind of a bubble at MCAD, and things are easy – it’s a safe environment, people are always there to help you. But in this situation there’s this sense of professionalism, there’s more riding on it. It’s a well-known museum, it’s a huge honor. We’re graduating soon, now we have this on our resume; I feel like this makes us more legitimate.”

Christopher Atkins predicts that after students see “A Continued Presence” installed, the MIA can expect even more proposals next year.

“It’s gone really well – I think this will go a long way to get students interested in participating. It’s been really nice to share our resources with MCAD, and work on this project together.”

Atkins says MCAD president Jay Coogan brought the collaboration idea with him from the Rhode Island School of Design, where they had a similar program. Next year students will be encouraged to submit proposals for different locations in the museum.

“That was one of the coolest parts,” says Rodriguez. “We could choose any part of the museum. It made me think outside of what I’m normally comfortable with, and look at the building differently.”

“It’s a great space,” Holbrook adds, noting that the minimalist artwork on the walls in the rotunda partners well with the sound piece.

“A Continued Presence” is still in the final stages of installation, and will have an official opening reception on Thursday night. It will remain in the museum through May 22nd.

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