Where We Live

I’ve been living in the same city for a long time. Maybe that’s why I crave the unusual. I abhor cookie-cutter architecture, which is just as prevalent in urban areas as in cul-de-sac suburbia. How many three-story brick condos with railed terraces have you seen constructed in recent years?

I want buildings that curve, use everyday materials in strange ways, use strange materials in everyday ways, inspire fear, or give me pause. I like to nestle next to Moos Tower on a sunny day, bike under the Guthrie’s blue-black cantilever at night, and duck into that new box buried behind the Walker Art Center that frames the winter sky.

I also like the dangerous: decrepit structures with peeling paint and collapsed roofs. Walking across the cracked, aging pedestrian bridge at I-94 near Augsburg College-with cars buzzing on the highway below-makes my heart beat a little faster. Crossing the Lowry Avenue truss bridge is thrilling when you poke your head out the window to look at the Mississippi River’s waves through the steel openings of this 1955 landmark. (Let someone else drive.)

In choosing pieces for this collection, I was drawn to art that took me away from the everyday: dances, architects, buildings, and photographs of lonely places that lifted my spirits, showed me hidden beauty, or poked my face in decrepitude.

Originally appeared in issue 19.2 of access+ENGAGE. Subscribe to this free arts e-magazine at mnartists.org/accessengage.

Pictured Above: Bigelow Chapel Interior – New Brighton, by Joan Soranno
This is a delicate building by a rising star in architecture. At Bigelow Chapel, Soranno uses five wavy curves to create a cocoon-like atmosphere for worshippers. Soranno also designed the Barbara Barker Center for Dance at the University of Minnesota and the much-heralded University of Alaska Museum of the North in Fairbanks, Alaska, and is now working on the B’nai Israel synagogue in Rochester, Minnesota.

Little Jack’s (from the Cream City series), Colin Kopp
I love this Colin Kopp photo. It’s vaguely reminiscent of Donnie Brasco, that Johnny Depp-Al Pacino film where the undercover FBI agent and the gangster bond. And it takes me directly to an imperfect part of Minneapolis that I love: Northeast. Moss clings to the parking barrier like lost hope. The slightly opened hood of the car suggests abandonment. The white washed wall of Little Jack’s covers graffiti and a glorious past.

Railroad Car #1, Burlington, VT, 2005, by Robert Roscoe
It would seem easy for a preservationist to fetishize cupolas and other architectural details from decades past. Instead, Roscoe focuses on beauty in unexpected, even dilapidated, places.

House/Home by Maggie Bergeron
House/Home is that rare dance that works as both a story and as a metaphor. Five dancers wearing greens and browns snuggle, curl, and finally break away from their four tiny on-stage homes. Throughout the work, they return to their homes, attempt repairs, crush them and start fresh, share them with a lover/friend, push away the lover/friend, and begin again. The dance, a new work by up-and-coming choreographer Maggie Bergeron, shows our connection and disaffection with our surroundings (and our lives), expressed by a continual need to remake, remodel, and reuse. Performed in the Soranno-designed dance center at the U of M.