Artist Fritz Haeg domesticates the Walker

Tonight visitors to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis will be invited to sit on a hand braided rug, drink tea and talk about canning and other domestic pursuits.

"Domestic Integrities" Installation view from Museum of Modern Art, 2012. Photo: Jack Rumini, courtesy Mildred’s Lane Image courtesy of the Walker Art Center

Artist Fritz Haeg inspired this shift from high art to the quotidian, bringing dirt and plants to the sterile gallery spaces that normally make up a modern art museum.

"This project expands the embrace of art and asks us to pay attention to things we take for granted in our daily lives," said the Walker's Director of Education Sarah Schultz. "The act of gardening, the art of making home, and other creative activities that we take for granted when in fact we should be paying attention to these things."

Schultz says Haeg is "institutionalizing the domestic while domesticating the institution."

Artist Fritz Haeg shows kids how to add to the braided rug in "Domestic Integrities" at the Walker Art Center. Photo courtesy of the Walker

Haeg's visit to the Walker has culminated in three projects, all under the heading "Fritz Haeg: At Home In The City." There's the gallery installation, featuring a braided rug which grows over time as well as an "exhibit archive" made up of canned goods that visitors have contributed. In the Walker's sculpture garden, Haeg has installed a "foraging circle," a sort of gathering space surrounded by brambles and other native edible plants.

And then there's the home of the Schoenherr family in Woodbury. Haeg and a team of volunteers transformed their suburban lawn into an "Edible Estate," with fruit trees, berry bushes, a vegetable garden, a separate garden just for neighborhood kids to grow food, and a log circle where people can sit and eat fresh pizza just out of the brick oven (I'll have more on the Schoenherrs next week).

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"All three projects have created spaces for people to gather together," notes Sarah Schultz.

"And they all have circles," Haeg adds. "You can’t get in a circle and not face each other."

Haeg, a Minnesota native, was fascinated with architecture from an early age.

"As I’ve gotten older, I no longer thing making buildings was at the root of that interest," explains Haeg. "Architecture is a way to realize other ways of living. It’s what a kid does sitting on the floor with building blocks – creating another world you want to inhabit."

Haeg says leaving buildings and moving into gardens was not a huge leap. He's still creating another world, but now it's with real people and yards instead of a canvas or concrete.

"I’ve become really bored with work that isn’t alive," muses Haeg. "The things that really interest me are alive and changing - that’s the world we live in."

Haeg says the attitudes toward his work have changed dramatically since he first started creating Edible Estates in 2005.

"It’s not like I’m coming to Minneapolis bringing something that doesn’t already exist. I’m simply giving it a place to convene, to build upon itself. I'm validating that activity by putting it in a museum.  I’m using the power of the museum to put a spot light on an apple on a pedestal and say 'this is beautiful, this is important.'"

To that end, one wall of the Domestic Integrities gallery is covered with a map of the Twin Cities, on which the Walker is attempting to document all the urban food projects already underway, including front yard edible gardens.