McKnight Foundation names 2010 Artist of the Year

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Emerson’s Parlor, 2005 by Siah Armajani

Image courtesy of maxprotetch.com

The McKnight Foundation has named Minnesota-based sculptor Siah Armajani as the 2010 McKnight Distinguished Artist.

The award, which includes $50,000, recognizes individual Minnesota artists who have made significant contributions to the quality of the state’s cultural life.

Locally, Armajani is best known for the bridge he designed joining the Walker Art Center’s sculpture garden to Loring Park.

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The Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge, built by Siah Armajani in 1988

Image courtesy of the Walker Art Center

Inspired by architecture and democratic ideals, Armajani has created footbridges, benches, reading rooms and gazebos which serve the public worldwide. Many of them are imprinted with text.

Born in Tehran in 1939, Armajani moved to the United States in 1969, and graduated from Macalester College in 1963. He lives and works in Minneapolis. Armajani is notoriously shy, refraining from interviews with the media, and public appearances

“Siah Armajani is one of Minnesota’s great assets, an ambassador to the world,” says Kate Wolford, president of The McKnight Foundation, “One fundamental role of great art is to help us interpret and understand our world. Never shying away from reality as he sees it, Siah shines a spotlight on life’s challenges and inequities. He unites humankind’s hardest truths with the optimism that we can do better, if we acknowledge and understand the bridges that brought us here.”

While we agree that Siah Armajani is a high profile international artist based in Minnesota, the arts and culture unit at Minnesota Public Radio is scratching its collective head over the McKnight Award. Has Armajani made a “significant contribution to the quality of the state’s cultural life?”

What do you think?