Cultivating a culture of curiosity

September 5, 2017
Elise Armani and Lexi Herman

Situated on the edge of downtown Minneapolis and a short bike or bus ride from the U of M campus is the Walker Art Museum--one of the most visited contemporary art museums in America.

Inside is an exhibit curated by two U of M students—senior Lexi Herman (pursing a BFA in studio art), and Elise Armani ’17 (BFA in studio art, with a dual degree in gender, women and sexuality studies).

The exhibit, “Cultivating the Garden,” celebrates the history and evolution of the Walker’s outdoor Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

It’s an inspirational, almost magical place, complete with a 7,000 pound cherry on a spoon—and now, with its recent grand reopening, a giant blue rooster. Both explore ways that scale, size, and color can change everyday objects into instant icons. And that idea—what makes an icon--was something Armani and Herman helped uncover and bring to life in their exhibit, along with the themes of growth and passage.

While the garden can be whimsical, the ideas behind the artworks are often serious ones that Herman and Armani took great care to convey.

“The experience was pretty amazing. We were able to explore the Walker archives and work with Walker curators, installation staff, and archivists to design the installation and interpret the materials,” says Armani, who after recently graduating now begins a new role as a fellow with the Dallas Museum of Art.

The significance of their experience isn’t lost on either of them.

“Just the physical proximity—it’s pretty unique to Minnesota, to be in the Midwest and to have a major contemporary art institution just miles away,” says Armani.

The opportunity was established through a close connection between the U’s Department of Art and the Walker.

“This is real world experience, and ... it’s unheard of, really, for interns to be able to curate their own archival exhibition, especially at an institution like the Walker,” says Herman.

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The exhibition will be on display at the Walker through Nov. 19.