#614: Matt Thompson + Leav + MN Citizens for the Arts + MN State Fair 2015 Commemorative Art


[bass, drums, & electric guitar
play rock] [music only; no vocals] ♪
♪ [electric bass plays
in bright rhythm] (Matt Thompson)
The first time
I was exposed to neon at the neon
glassblowing school, it was something so different
it really grabbed my attention and it kept me interested
at a young age to stick with it and keep
practicing and practicing, through the apprenticeships
to get to where I could become
a functioning glassblower. [bass, drums, & electric guitar
play rock] I have been working in neon
for 30 years. The first opportunity I had
to work was in Honolulu, Hawaii. I worked there as an apprentice under a couple other
glassblowers for about 4 years. And after that run,
we had an opportunity to go with one of the
glassblowers I worked with to Holland
and work in Amsterdam. We were going to introduce
the American style of making neon to the Dutch
and German market. We got some wonderful
opportunities to go and do trade show demonstrations
all around Europe and meet and work with glassblowers
from around the world. And everybody works glass
differently. Getting the raw materials and
the way that the glassblowers use their equipment
and the different types of tubing and torches
that they use, every country has their own
specific way of doing it. ♪
♪ The work that comes
into the neon shop is different every day. In a given week we can do repair work
for commercial contractors, we can build signs that would be
in storefronts, architectural lighting, we can
do antique sign restoration. It varies widely. The basic fundamentals
of neon sign production haven’t changed much at all
in a hundred years. It’s a very old-fashioned
technique. It’s handblown glass tubing,
pulled on a vacuum, evacuated,
and backfilled with a gas. The only thing that’s changed in
that is the modern components of the equipment that we use
for processing. Basically today we make it the same way
they made it 100 years ago. ♪
♪ Matt, good to see ya.
Hello Mike. How are ya?
Thanks for stoppin’ by. You got some time to
check out some tubes?
You bet, yup. (Matt)
FMS Company makes
the Brillite tubes that we use
in the neon industry. There’s only a couple of
companies in the United States that do the coating of the
tubing for the neon industry, and we’re lucky to have FMS
right here in town. (Mike)
The client, he just likes
yellow and green together? Yeah, green and gold is
kinda his company colors. (Mike)
Yeah, if you put ’em up
underneath there, the powder will fluoresce
a little bit. We use the black light to excite
the phosphors and see what color they are before putting them
into a neon tube. Yeah, these are
just different minerals that are mined out of the ground
and refined to the state
that we see ’em here, but they just fluoresce
different colors. The ultraviolet light strikes
the phosphor and causes it to just emit light like that
in the different colors. Our process kind of from start
to finish then is to buy these big huge boxes
of clear glass tubes. They’re 4-feet long,
come in different diameters. And then we take the phosphors
in a powder form and mix ’em with some liquids
to make, get them into a liquid that can be flowed into the tube
in the coating room there. And then after
the tubes are coated, we take ’em out of
the coating room and put them
on the annealing oven to burn the organic binders
out of the tubes. And by the time they ride off
the end of the cooling leer, they’re ready to be packed up
and sold to people like Matt and others
who make neon signs. ♪
♪ (Matt)
This project is commissioned by
the Veit Automotive Foundation for a sculptural piece of neon
to hang in their museum up in Monticello, Minnesota. It’s based off of a 1950s
advertising piece called “The Sputnik”
which is modeled after the first Russian satellite, and it’s kind of a modern
abstract piece. It incorporates spun aluminum
and 3-dimensional neon coils, and it will hang from the
ceiling in their car museum, throwing down light
on all the chrome bumpers and cool paint jobs
of the cars underneath. After years of commercial
sign production and neon work, it’s fun to do something that
you’ve never done before. ♪
♪ [hissing of the flame] Something that we’re just
creating as we go, there’s not really something that we can
look to for guidance with it. We’re designing and working
with the coil sizes and making the pieces,
test-fitting them and seeing what scale works
proper for this. ♪
♪ The colors are achieved
with stained glass. This is glass
from Murano, Italy, and it’s a filter glass,
which means it’s an actual colored glass with a
phosphor coating on the inside, and when the light transfers
through the phosphor coating and the pigmented glass, it
gives a deep, rich color tone, without a lot of luminous
output, but the color tones are really, really deep
and luxurious. It’s not used a lot
in commercial signage, but really nice
for sculptural applications. ♪
♪ I’m here today at Veit
Automotive Foundation to do the installation of our “Kinetic
Chaos” neon sculptural piece. ♪
♪ The room where we are installing
the sculpture is a round car barn that was
built specifically to house a beautiful collection of antique cars and signs
and vintage memorabilia. ♪
♪ I think what keeps me in the
neon industry after 30 years is a chance to adventure out
and try something different. Every day something different
comes into the shop, but like in the instance
of this sculptural piece, it was an opportunity to take
something to a level that I’ve wanted to and just
haven’t had the chance to yet. I’m really happy with the way
the piece turned out. It’s something that has been in thought process
for many, many years. It’s rewarding to see the people
enjoy the work and they’re really happy
with the finished product. That’s kinda the driving force
that keeps me going. [bass & guitar
play jazz] (Andy Sturdevant)
It so happens the project is very concentrated
on 10th Street. 10th Street’s not a street
that you think of that often. When you think of 10th Street
you think of, oh yeah, that’s a great place to park. I really like the idea of
giving people an opportunity to explore places that they might
not have thought of otherwise. The Leav app gives you that
site-based experience to go on a little tour in a really kind of quiet
and intimate way. I was really excited about
the opportunity to do that. [bass & keyboard play
avant-garde electronic music] (Bobby Maher)
Leav is a mobile platform
for creating and sharing digital art in the world. So we’re starting to work
with artists who are looking to create work that’s dependent on
the space you’re in, the time of day, how fast you’re
moving, the temperature– all of those factors go into
creating work with Leav. What’s really unique about Leav
is the fact that we can make a digital footprint
anywhere in the world. (Erik Martz) Everyone has a
phone on them at all times. The idea is, it’s to use
your phone as a tool to kind of notice the world
around you a little bit more. (Bobby Maher)
Leav uses the GPS in your phone
to locate you in the city as well as
the other pieces of art, and once you’re in the radius
of the given piece, all you do is tap the screen and then you have the ability
to experience it. ♪
♪ We have a group of 4 friends who
had this idea to develop Leav. In 2013, we were fortunate
enough to receive a grant to commission
our first 4 artists to develop work
specifically for Leav. Kate Casanova created a
wonderful piece, based on the migration patterns
of chimney swifts. Stuart Pimsler worked
with his dance company to create site-specific works. (Erik Martz)
Chris Koza had
a moving sound collage located around
the Uptown neighborhood. Holly Hansen,
her pieces all occurred during the ringing
of the church bells hourly at different churches
and cathedrals. [deep, resonant ring
of a church bell] [acoustic guitar,
bass, and drums play rock] ♪
♪ (Holly Hansen)
♪ Some men leave a woman ♪ ♪ For women ♪ (Bobby Maher)
Your phone is great and now we
have the ability to find anything at any point in time
anywhere, and that’s wonderful, but we wanted to create
a more specific experience, a more special experience, and
so we continue to try to find artists who really want to work
in these new interactive ways. (Holly Hansen)
♪ Hey-ey hey-ey-ey ♪ ♪
♪ My name is Andy Sturdevant, I’m
an artist and writer, and I’ve been working closely with Bobby
to shape not just the content of the app, but also more
importantly, the experience. The project that I’m creating is
going to allow users to visit 3 historic
artist studios in spaces that are either no longer there
or have changed in some way. I’ll describe what the studio
had looked like, based on historic accounts, first person
writings from the artist. (Bobby) So we need
to basically cover that. (Andy) Yes, cover
like the front of the– it’s better if it covers
the front. (Bobby) Okay. (Andy)
The really exciting thing
about this project was that it gave me an opportunity to
dig a little bit deeper into some topics that I already
had been really interested in. I’ve always done
a lot of research at the Minneapolis
Central Library. Working there has always been
a really big part of my process. I’d come across Robert
Kilbride’s work years ago. He and another couple of artists
ran a space called The K & B Gallery, and they put out a magazine
called “Potboiler.” I thought it was so funny,
so well-done, I mean, the sense of humor was dry,
kind of deadpan, really smart. I’ve written a lot about artist
studios and artist spaces over the years, and I knew that
was what I wanted to work with. I thought that’d be
a good approach for the app. The idea is to give people
this immersive experience, being in this place that
they might not associate with the production of art
in Minneapolis. As it turns out, that when
artist studios are torn down, they’re usually replaced
with like, parking garages. This would have been near where the Hampshire Arms Residential
Hotel was located, which is where the painter
Frances Cranmer Greenman lived and had a studio
for many years. It would have been right here where the Ameriprise
Financial building is. Her studio was on the 5th floor,
we’re about 5 stories up now, so this would’ve been
about the height. It’s really amazing to think
that at some time, 10th Street really would have
meant something to somebody that was
interested in art. They would have been able
to say, oh, of course, that’s where the Handicraft
Guild Building is. It’s a really beautiful
building, it’s an amazing building.
It’s almost completely alone in this entire part of town
as being untouched, relatively. And there’s still all sorts
of businesses in there that are very similar in spirit, the sorts of businesses that
were in there when it was built. The thing about the app is,
you know, part of it is the history and all that, but
part of it is just getting you in this place that you might not
have considered before, and then, you know,
maybe you get a quick tour! [electronic music plays] (Sheila Smith)
Here we are in the Midwest,
and it’s really cold. I think that’s one of the things that has made Minnesota
a more creative place. And I’ve heard this over and
over from corporate leaders, is that having a strong arts
and cultural community makes it easier to attract
and retain high-quality talent from around the rest of the
country and around the world. Minnesota Citizens for the Arts is a statewide arts
advocacy organization. Our mission is to ensure access to the arts for all Minnesotans. We organize arts advocates to
get together with policymakers to talk about the importance of
the arts to their own hometowns, to their own lives,
to encourage public officials to support the arts, to fund the
arts, to advocate for the arts as an economic development
strategy, and we work with networks
of artists and arts advocates
in every corner of the state. [hammered dulcimer plays] MCA is 40 years old this year. We are officially
the longest-surviving statewide arts advocacy
organization in the country. We were founded in 1974
by a group of people from the Minneapolis Institute of
Arts, and Minnesota Orchestra. The leaders on those boards
got together with the Greater Minnesota folks
who were putting together the Regional Arts Council
system, which is now is a national standard in how
to deliver arts services to all the people
in the entire state. In 2008, we created and passed the Legacy Amendment with the conservation community, which made Minnesota the only
state in the country to have dedicated funding for the arts
in our state constitution. That means that through
the appropriations from the Arts and Cultural Legacy
Fund, the Legislature ensures that arts are accessible
everywhere across the state. They do that by using the
existing structure of the Minnesota State Arts
Board and Regional Arts Council. There were literally
a thousand heroes in passing the Legacy Amendment,
but really, it’s truly the Legislature
that were the heroes. [drums, bass, keyboard,
& acoustic guitar play rock] One of the other things we’ve
done earlier in our history with a group of legislators, create the Percent
for Art program so that when public buildings
are created, that a percent
of the construction cost will go to hiring an actual
artist who will make art to be in the public spaces
of the building. [drums, bass, & electric guitar
play rock] Creative Minnesota is
a new endeavor by the state’s art
supporting foundations. The goal is that together
we’re creating hard data of the economic impact
and health of the statewide arts
and cultural community. Minnesota Citizens
for the Arts exists because the need to advocate
for the arts never stops. ♪
♪ [violin and mandolin; string-
plucking in bright rhythm] (Brienna Schutte)
The moment that you set foot
on this fairgrounds you see twinkling lights, you
hear animals, [sheep baaing] you hear rides,
people screaming with joy, you smell manure
and fried food and spun sugar. It really is sensory overload in
every direction that you look. But I think that’s why it’s
such a great showcase for everything that’s great
about our state. Advertising art has been
at the heart of getting the word out about
the Minnesota State Fair since the very beginning. Twelve years ago, we embarked
on a brand-new program whereby we would commission
a Minnesota artist, to actually create
that art for the State Fair. The goal of the commemorative
art piece is to have an annual piece of artwork that the Minnesota State Fair
Foundation could use to support their mission
of improving the State Fair’s historic
buildings and grounds. And I think that sort of
exemplifies the Fair from a specific artist’s
point of view. Walk us through kind of what
the additions might be from what we’re seeing
at this point. (man)
I think we’re gonna move
everything over a little bit in order to fill up the space
a little better and give the whole piece
a better balance. We’re gonna add in fireworks
because that’s something that’s really been special
for the grandstand shows. (Brienna)
This year, for 2015, we
hand-selected artist Adam Turman to be the official
commemorative artist for the Minnesota State Fair. He’s a muralist and illustrator,
a screen printer, he’s very, very well-known
and well-loved in the community. How will the Ferris wheel pop
as far as color? Oh, that’s
a good question. What I’m planning on doing is,
add on those fun little lights that the Ferris wheel has. (woman)
Oh, that’ll make, that’ll
kind of add a lotta whimsy. The Ferris wheel
at night has these beautiful little
light bulbs that light up and then they kind of, they
radiate out from the center, and it’s just a lotta fun
to watch it go around, And I think adding in
those lights will give the Ferris wheel
that movement. (Brienna)
The process is
very collaborative. From the moment that the artist,
in this case Adam, is sort of in that sketch phase,
we’re talking, talking about what that sketch might look
like, what the colors might be. Then we sort of let the artist
go to work for a while, then determine kind of what direction
we want to take from there. What I’m proposing is doing,
using my medium, the screen-printed prints,
as the final product that people could buy. (Brienna)
Fabulous, I think
that would be wonderful, because I think that’s what
people expect from you, is the the screen,
when they’re buying a piece, they’re buying
a screen print from you. I think
this is great. After we’re through that initial
sketch phase and we’ve talked a little bit about color
and concepting that way, the artist is really
on their own to create the piece once that sketch is approved. [bass & drums
play in bright rhythm] (Brienna)
Adam came to the table
with a great love of the Fair and some great ideas about what he wanted to include
in his piece. What we’re doing in the 2015
artwork is, we’re showcasing the elements of the fair
that everybody recognizes. What was great was,
I had the opportunity to walk through the Fair with
the State Fair representatives. When I’m looking around for
landmarks that I think are exciting, I’m looking for
angles, I’m looking for shapes, basically elements of the Fair
that everybody recognizes, such as the Grandstand,
such as the Ferris Wheel, but also new things like
the West Market space. It’s a brand-new space and this
area where this archway is is now a new transit hub where
many fairgoers enter the Fair. (Brienna)
We were most excited to see
the Streetcar Arch. It has been a part
of the Minnesota State Fair since the 1930s, so it’s a new
landmark at the State Fair that’s an old landmark. (Adam)
The process I call it is
analog digital analog and everything is really started
as a hand-drawn piece. So everything is
created by hand, it’s brought into the computer, it’s separated
through the computer, and then we print it
basically by hand. [electronic music plays] Today we’re printing
the final color on a 5-color print for
the Minnesota State Fair. (Brienna)
Adam will actually be printing
the limited edition of a hundred prints, then we’ll
also have a run of posters. That’s done by Seven Corners
Printing here in St. Paul. The Minnesota State Fair
Commemorative Art is truly a Minnesota piece
of art from start to finish because we not only have
a Minnesota artist create the piece, but we involve
Minnesota vendors, whether it be the printing
process or the framing process, we’re working with vendors
and businesses in our community. As soon as the artist is
finished creating the original
piece of art, we take it to be
matted and framed. I really like the matting to
have some sort of an accent of the color that’s
actually in the print. You have that background gray
that’s there, I think that would be a nice neutral
kind of accent on the edge. (Brienna)
Tim Smith has been framing all
of the commemorative art pieces since the very beginning
back in 2004. Something like this. (Adam)
That’s kinda nice.
(woman) Oh, that’s nice. (Adam) I like that. (Tim)
take a look at some frames, Let’s that would coordinate
with those grays would be nice. (Tim)
So here’s a silver with a gray
kind of striation in it. I really think that
sets off the art. (Adam)
I love it,
I think we’re good to go. (woman) I love it too.
(Tim) Great! [acoustic guitar plays] (Brienna)
The fair is important
and significant to the State of Minnesota and even the larger region
in so many ways. The Minnesota State Fair
is actually older than the State of Minnesota. It’s an annual event that people
can look forward to. Some years are tougher
than others. There have been summers
where there have been horrible storms
and horrible flooding and terrible things that have
happened in the community. But people can always count on
the fact that the Great Minnesota Get-Together
is gonna happen. I think that the ability
to rely on something like that, where you’re surrounded by,
you know, on any given day, 200,000 of your closest friends
and neighbors, is really something special. [bass, drums, guitar,
and vibraphone play rock] CC–Armour Captioning & TPT (woman) This program
is made possible by The State’s Arts
and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota. [synthesizer fanfare]

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