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Project Awarded

Little Box Sauna will be a 2015 South Loop Placemaker! Bloomington Theatre and Art Center Announcement


Creative Placemaking in the South Loop Projects Announced

BLOOMINGTON, MN  –  Creative Placemaking in the South Loop is a long-term initiative of Bloomington Theatre and Art Center (BTAC) and the City of Bloomington to engage our region’s creative community in transforming the South Loop from a dispersed commercial area into a walkable urban neighborhood with a distinct identity and a sense of connection among its diverse stakeholders.

In July 2013, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded BTAC a $100,000 “Our Town” matching grant to launch Creative Placemaking in the South Loop by preparing a long-term placemaking plan and commissioning a series of “demonstration projects.” Collectively, the projects are intended to demonstrate the power of artists, designers, and other creative people to help accomplish the transformation described above.

BTAC is pleased to announce the selection of four projects for commissions in 2015. In recommending these projects from proposals submitted by 15 finalists, a jury of BTAC staff, City staff and officials, and public art experts sought projects that (1) comprise a permanent or temporary artistic installation, urban design intervention, or cultural event/performance in the South Loop; (2) engage one or more groups of South Loop stakeholders in the project design/development process or the final project; and (3) take inspiration from what is distinctive about the South Loop's past, present, or future. Additionally, the jury looked for projects that incorporate a variety of artistic disciplines/media; take place in locations throughout the South Loop, range from temporary to permanent, include different social and cultural perspectives of the South Loop, and take place during a variety of seasons.

About the Projects

Project One: Little Box Sauna, by Molly Reichart and Andrea Johnson

Projects Hosts: Mall of America, McGough Companies, and IKEA, with others to be determined

Little Box Sauna is a new kind of “mobile hot spot” that creates a visible, small-scale space for socializing within the large expanse of the South Loop. The sauna will travel through the neighborhood during the cold months of February and March of 2015, with one-week stops at each host’s parking lot to create a hub where employees and visitors can socialize in a way that is new to our community, based on Finnish and other cultural traditions. Little Box Sauna supports links between businesses and people to generate meaningful communication. It also helps to change perceptions of the South Loop’s physical space. By inhabiting the expansive open spaces between large structures, Little Box Sauna gives people a destination they can see and walk to, a stopping place between buildings and cars. Bringing in new people while celebrating those there every day, it acts to build density and excitement for each project host and the neighborhood as a whole.

Project Two: Ripple of Life, by Tom Henry

Project Host: Mall of America

Field Artist Tom Henry will create a ripple landform in a large circular pattern with a field of wheat growing on it, surrounded by a blue Russian Sage hedge and a half circle of yellow sunflowers entitled Ripple of Life. This earth work starts with a form of elegant simplicity and a color palette of exceptional beauty and ends with a harvest of wheat to be processed into hundreds of loaves of bread for Twin Cities food shelves. Ripple of Life will be centrally located in the South Loop and captivate viewers seeing it from trains, planes, cars, and on foot. A large blue reflective globe in the center of the work represents the drop of water nourishing the field of beauty and sending out the ripple effect. Even in the winter months as the snow builds, the ripple effect will be apparent with the blue globe at its center. Located just north of the South Loop’s last working farm, Ripple of Life invites contemplation of both the legacy and future of agriculture in the neighborhood.

Project Three: Science and Nature Mural, by Erik Pearson

Project Host: Cypress Semi-Conductor

Erik Pearson will create a large exterior mural at the border of Cypress Semi-Conductor and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge at the Bass Ponds parking lot. The mural will provide an artistic backdrop for everyone who fishes or hikes the trail throughout the year, helping to achieve the goal of connecting the South Loop with various ways into the Refuge.  Its design will reflect the interconnections between science and nature, and how people continuously engage with both in the South Loop. Erik will take inspiration and images from the history of technology and semi-conductors in the South Loop as well as the future vision of “green” technologies. The tech history and future vision will be paired with images of the ecology and wildlife of the South Loop, expressing the unique blend of science and nature that have shaped the neighborhood’s past and will continue to impact its future.

Project Four: Cross-Pollination, by PlaceBase Productions

Project Host: Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

In partnership with the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, PlaceBase Productions will turn the grounds of the Refuge into a stage for Cross-Pollination – a work of walking theater. Cross-Pollination will further our shared understanding of the unique role the Refuge plays in shaping the South Loop’s past, present, and future. Through the use of site-specific musical theater and utilizing stories and research collected by the artists from a range of South Loop stakeholders, Cross-Pollination will explore the places, resources, and initiatives that make the Refuge a common ground where South Loop community members can engage each other and connect to the surrounding river valley.

About the Artists and Designers

Andrea Johnson, AIA, LEED BD+C, Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota School of Architecture is an architect and educator based in Minneapolis and New York, whose work involves questions of language and text in spatial practices and integrations of art and architecture. She received her MArch from Columbia GSAPP, BA in Urban Studies and Poetry from Stanford University, and held the General Scholar fellowship at Tongji University School of Architecture. She has practiced previously at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill in New York with a focus on building technologies and taught design and architectural history at CUNY in New York.

Molly Reichert, Associate AIA, Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota School of Architecture, is a designer and an educator residing in Minneapolis. She incorporates technology in both research and design practice with computational design and fabrication. Her practice engages in an interdisciplinary form, moving fluidly between the disciplines of architecture, art, design, urbanism and our relationships to each of these. She has a unique skill set of design + build practice, with several years’ experience in rough and finished carpentry. Molly was educated at Smith College and UC Berkeley and has taught digital design and fabrication courses at UC Berkeley, San Jose State, and the University of Minnesota.

Tom Henry is a Minneapolis field artist who works primarily in grains and sunflower to create artistic fields of beauty and also provides a plentiful harvest to benefit area food shelves. Since 2011 with Tom’s first project, The Long and Winding Row, his art has donated some 600 loaves of whole wheat bread and several hundred bags of roasted sunflower seed. Tom’s work is featured on local television, local and national print and social media.

Erik Pearson is a Saint Paul artist working in paintings, sculptures, installations, and murals. His work has a signature style across mediums, reflecting stories and relationships between the characters and locations in his compositions. He has completed fifteen public art projects, working with city officials, community groups, and business owners, and has been exhibiting his artwork for over twenty years. Erik’s work can be found in private collections nationally and internationally.

PlaceBase Productions works with local communities and commissioning partners to create unforgettable site-specific theater around Minnesota. They aim to mobilize people who see the potential power of theatre to achieve community goals. Their greater goal is to foster creativity, a sense of wonder and, above all, a sense of place by engaging local communities in their unique history and culture and promoting a deeper appreciation for the essential role of the arts in community life.

Ashley Hanson, Producer and Director, received her MA degree in Applied Theatre at the University of Manchester (UK) with a focus on the role of theatre in the sustainable development of rural communities. Ashley has received fellowships from the Creative Community Leadership Institute, National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture and Creative CityMaking. She is also a founding member of the Yes!Lets Collective and a member of the folk/Americana band, Brian Laidlaw & the Family Trade.

Andrew Gaylord, Playwright and Director, has degrees from The University of Chicago and St. John’s University, where he explored the impact of art spaces on their surrounding community life. For ten years, he taught humanities and theatre and directed 24 plays at Trinity School. He has written and directed five site-specific, community-driven plays with PlaceBase productions. Other current projects include The St. Paul Neighborhood Project, Family History Plays, and the Americana Punk band The Latest Whaling Intelligence.

About the South Loop: The South Loop is a developing neighborhood that is home to the Mall of America, the MN Valley National Wildlife Refuge, 13 hotels, four light rail transit stations, an existing residential area, and significant new development opportunities. The City of Bloomington has adopted a long-range plan to transform the South Loop into a densely-populated, walkable urban neighborhood that attracts residents, workers, hotel guests, and shoppers through its unique character and assets.

About Bloomington Theatre and Art Center: BTAC is an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the cultural fabric of the communities we serve by providing high quality performing arts, visual arts, and arts education programming, and welcoming and nurturing talent. BTAC serves audiences from across the Twin Cities region and artists from a five-state area.