MIA tries to quell concerns of local artists

Front of the MIA
The front entrance of the main MIA building.
MPR Photo/Marianne Combs

The Minnesota Artist Exhibition Program allows local mid-career artists to show their work in a major gallery in an internationally recognized arts institution. What makes it unique in the nation, according to artist Doug Padilla, is that the artists are selected by their peers and not by a curator.

"Now what that means is that in Minnesota we have a visible wonderful beautiful gallery where as artists we can show art we deem as significant outside of the fashions and politics of the museum," said Padilla.

For years the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program coordinator Stewart Turnquist has organized a rotating panel of artists who run the exhibitions.

For years Turnquist has resisted any curatorial oversight of the program in order to maintain its independence. But in February MIA director Kaywin Feldman reorganized her staff, placing the MAEP under the oversight of a new contemporary art curator. A few months later, Turnquist resigned.

Exterior of the MIA.
MPR Photo/Marianne Combs

Padilla says this has Minnesota artists worried about the independence of the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program.

"Stewart has been defending it for 25 - 30 years, because museums always want the money to move around, the galleries to disappear, they're very political places, and suddenly it doesn't have that status anymore. So our feeling is that it is a complete change in the status of the program," said Padilla. MIA Director Kaywin Feldman says the MAEP will remain an independent program, and this is just a very large misunderstanding. Feldman says she was simply trying to streamline a cumbersome staff chart, and it made sense to put the MAEP under the supervision of the new contemporary art curator.

"One of the reasons being that I'm so impressed by the incredible talent of Minnesota artists and really think it would have been wrong not to include them as part of our exciting contemporary initiative here," said Feldman.

Feldman says she'll hire a new program coordinator to replace Stewart Turnquist.

Turnquist declined to speak on tape, but he did say that he was extracting himself from the conversation, so that artists can take a clear look at what's happening and reach their own conclusions.

The meeting between the artists and the MIA takes place Saturday morning, July 19, at 10:30 a.m. in the Institutes's Pillsbury Auditorium.

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