MN Museum of American Art show explores Green Line life

The Green Line has been running for less than three months, but the construction took years and was a challenge for the communities it moved through.

A new exhibition at the Minnesota Museum of American Art -- "From There to Here" -- takes a closer look at the people affected by the Green Line, and the train itself.

tavera xavier kassim a. busuri
Kassim A. Busuri, Minnesota Da'Wah Institute, 2014 Photo by Xavier Tavera

The exhibition consists primarily of the work of three photographers: Xavier Tavera, Katherine Turczan and Wing Young Huie.

Tavera took portraits of business owners along University Avenue, and interviewed them about how things have changed (audio clips are available as part of the exhibition).

Curator Christina Chang says Tavera's images, and the often vintage interiors he captures, evoke a certain sadness.

"He’s almost memorializing them," she said, "attempting to hold onto something he sees as fading."

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Chang says she hopes people who come through and see Tavera’s portraits will be compelled to visit the businesses.

"Shops that are culturally specific often have a hard time drawing in people from other cultures;  people don’t feel like they belong there. So hopefully this will help to break that down."

Line (detail), 2014 by Katherine Turczan

Katherine Turczan's many photographs are meant to be viewed together as a sort of portrait of the Green Line itself. Moving from still shots to blurred glimpses through windows, the viewer has the impression of riding the train from Minneapolis to St. Paul.

"There are people who think light rail is urban blight – that it’s an ugly hulking monstrosity," said Chang. "Turczan finds beauty in the industrial aspect of this massive steel machine. Some people tune out while riding lightrail, but she tunes in, and gives people the opportunity to experience the ride through her."

Wing Young Huie's part of the exhibition includes images from past projects (notably his University Avenue Project), but it also features documentation for a public theater piece he's working on with theater engagement artist Ashley Hanson and playwright Jessica Huang. Together they've been interviewing people about light rail, and are creating a script which will be performed at different light rail stops on October 18.

All combined, Chang says the artists' work creates a complex picture of what has at times been a polarizing project.

"This goes beyond the polarizing, oversimplified arguments for and against light rail on University Avenue," said Chang. "It’s much more nuanced. I'd like to think this exhibition can play a mediating role; it’s not just direct confrontation between the powers that be and people who were affected. This is a middle ground where they can meet and explore the issue."

Son and Ni Dao_Ha Tien BBQ and Deli
Son and Ni Dao, Ha Tien BBQ and Deli, 2014 Photo by Xavier Tavera

"From There to Here" runs through Oct. 19. That means it will be up when the national transit advocacy conference comes to the Twin Cities in late September.

The Minnesota Museum of American Art has applied for the Knight Foundation's Green Line Challenge. If it makes it to the final round, the museum plans to take the images out of the gallery and get them onto light rail trains and stations for riders to enjoy.