Artists vote in four new representatives at the MIA

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is an encyclopedic museum – that means it tries to cover just about everything artistically, from design to ancient pottery to the great impressionists. The most modern stuff it tends to leave to the Walker Art Center.

However the MIA does dedicate some gallery space to the work of contemporary Minnesota artists. That space is curated by a panel of artists, who are elected by the community. The panel is comprised of 7 members; each year, either 3 or 4 members rotate off to preserve some continuity of leadership. This last Saturday four new panelists were voted in, and I thought I’d find out just why they’re interested in the job.

The new panelists are Megan Vossler, David Petersen, Andy Sturdevant, and Brian Frink.

All of them underscored the importance of the MAEP program, because it gives emerging artists the opportunity to show their work in a truly professional and high-profile setting, alongside world-class masterpieces.

Andy Sturdevant adds:

Another important piece is the fact that the MAEP is almost 35 years old. That makes it one of the oldest venues in Minnesota for working artists to exhibit new work. Most currently existing gallery spaces and nonprofits open to working artists don’t go that far back. When you trace the MAEP shows and exhibiting artists back through the decades, you can follow a very clear line of lineage that tells you a lot about the sort of art that has been made in Minnesota. That sort of institutional memory is really valuable.

Megan Vossler says being in an MAEP show was such an incredible experience for her, she’s eager to give something back, and to participate in the program in a different role.

The duties of panelists include attending monthly meetings at the MIA, selecting exhibitions from submitted proposals, and working with the MAEP Coordinator to guide the overall direction and development of the program. Panel coordinator Chris Atkins says current development includes connecting with artists and institutions around the state, and integrating the MAEP even more into the programming of the museum, so that the artists can take full advantage of the museum’s resources.

Brian Frink sees the MAEP as “the hub of a large cultural wheel.” He says for the panel to do its work well, it needs to be in constant dialogue with artists and with the MIA.

About a year ago the previous MAEP coordinator left abruptly, making many artists question the MIA’s oversight of the program. So Andy Sturdevant thinks it’s crucial the panel is transparent in everything it does.

While all the panelists give kudos to the MAEP for what it’s accomplished, some also see more work that can be done. Vossler states:

I think restoring the number of exhibitions back to five- currently reduced to four – is important to maintain a diverse selection of shows and provide adequate opportunity for the artists to receive a show.

David Petersen sees lots of potential for creating new connections, engaging more artists to participate, and develop new sources of funding.

That’s a lot to accomplish in two years. I think I’ll check back then and see what they were able to get done…

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