(Frozen) Water Under the Bridge

I went to Minnesota for a week at the beginning of winter break to diversify my interview pool and to talk to galleries in the Twin Cities region about exhibiting the work. I was disappointed that it wasn’t as cold as promised and was between 30 and 40 degrees. It had been below zero most of November, so there were lots of frozen rivers and lakes which was fun.

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Frozen river at the St. Paul Yacht Club

I completed a dozen great interviews during the week I was in Minnesota and Wisconsin, going down as far as La Crosse. To give a sense of how hectic that was, this is barely below the number of interviews I conducted during my entire month on the river last summer. I’ll be working on those this quarter, and adding them to the work that should be at a good stage by April.

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Retired riverman James Brunkow in Pepin, Wisconsin

I also did a lot of filming of beautiful winter things. Check out the posts below.

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Frozen backwater outside of Fountain City, Wisconsin

I met with a half dozen art institutions in the Twin Cities area to see if they might be able to help make some things possible. I want to exhibit as much as possible because that opens up possibilities for the project, and I want to try to help fund the project through the next two years, especially my fieldwork on the Upper Mississippi over the next two summers.

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Storyteller Nothando Zulu in Minneapolis

While I was there I talked to folks at the Minnesota Historical Society, the Minnesota Marine Art Museum, the Minnesota Institute of Art, the Walker Art Center, and the Weisman Art Museum. All of them were excited about the project and were interested in finding ways that the Secret History project might fit into their programming either in 2015 or 2016. A few were interested in doing longer term exhibitions.

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Boathouses on the frozen Black River in La Crosse, Wisconsin

Surprisingly, one of the biggest challenges for a longer exhibition where the shantyboat would be inside a gallery was the size of the boat. At 22 feet long, 9 feet wide, and 12 feet tall, the boat fit most galleries, but was bigger than most doors into those galleries. This may limit some engagements to short-term outdoor exhibits. Clearly when the museum was built, 8′ wide x 10′ high loading doors probably seemed more than sufficient. And a 12′ wide x 12′ deep freight elevator probably seemed large enough for anything.

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Railroad tie plates along the Mississippi River in Fountain City, Wisconsin

Talking about a longer exhibit, ideas that were floated that would expand the exhibit were:

  • exhibiting the boat off the trailer for viewing at eye level (open only during special days),
  • exhibiting gallery-framed photographic portraits of river people with brief bios,
  • exhibiting technology to allow access to the interactive web documentary within the gallery,
  • hosting artist talks and educational workshops, and
  • hosting talks by some of the people who are featured within the work, including river scientists, residents, artists, and adventurers.

Opportunities definitely exist for short-term exhibits, though I would like to do these in conjunction with some longer winter exhibitions.

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Fish and Wildlife Ranger Ed Lagace

Excited about the possibilities and already planning my summer fieldwork on the Upper Mississippi River.

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