Best political sign

Update: Unfortunately, The UnConvention has yanked the sign above from the contest for being too overtly partisan. (Huh? Dick Cheney's not running and, well, he did shoot a guy in the face with a shotgun.) If you go directly to the sign, which doesn't appear in the regular voting section, you can still vote, though.

Voting for The UnConvention's My Yard Our Message project starts tomorrow. Top vote-getters -- like Paul Wenzel's, above? -- will be produced and distributed near the Republican National Convention site during the nominating convention. Anyone can vote anytime throughout July.

Wishful thinking.



Three days left to submit RNC yard signs!

You've only got three days to submit yard signs for the UnConvention's My Yard, Our Message project, held in conjunction with the Republican National Convention. Looks like there are some good entries mixed in among the simply awful ones (this one falls under good concept, so-so design), so submit some and give me something to vote for when public ranking begins on Tuesday.

Ode to Vergne

It's not clear to me why the Walker Art Center hasn't issued any official statement about chief curator Philippe Vergne's departure for Dia Art Foundation (I hear they're leaving PR duties to Dia, but don't local audiences deserve some info?). So it's great to see the museum's Visual Art curators filling the gap with a nice tribute to Vergne.

Video: Facing budget cuts, newspaper union rallies (with ice cream)

My first foray into video journalism: This week, members of the Star Tribune's Newspaper Guild unit, facing yet another round of budget cuts, rallied outside HQ as they face contract negotiations with management. Sweet, sweet ice cream was on hand, but so was trepidation about the intentions of the paper's owner, Avista Capital Partners, and questions about what might happen to local journalism. Produced for the Minnesota Independent.


UnConventional: Art orgs ask citizens to "approve this message"

In the political theater of national nominating conventions, one aspect tends to get left out: the political theater of regular citizens. So, good thing The UnConvention, a group of Twin Cities-based arts organizations, is partnering with The UpTake to give people a more direct way to do some political theater of their own.

"I Approve This Message" invites first-person video submissions on the topics of civic engagement and politics, asking, "What would you say to a delegate" at the Republican National Convention. The videos can't explicitly endorse a candidate, and while the first few submissions -- including one filmed at the May Day Parade -- lean left, it's open to people of all political stripes. Submitted videos could end up on The UnConvention's YouTube Channel, the project website or at a Walker Art Center screening later this summer. Watch the quirky UpTake-produced intro video to get the basics, or attend one of the Walker's video workshops this summer to get up to speed.

Vergne out at Walker, former Walker curator Armstrong in at MIA

In conjunction with the news that Walker chief curator Philippe Vergne is leaving for New York's Dia Center, I heard the rumor that former Walkerite Elizabeth Armstrong would be coming back to Minneapolis. She is -- but, surprisingly, not to the Walker.

Armstrong, current Deputy Director for Programs and Chief Curator at the Orange County Museum of Art outside LA, has been hired as the Minneapolis Institute of Arts' Assistant Director for Exhibitions and Programs and Curator of Contemporary Art. (Minneapolitans may remember Ultrabaroque, her traveling show of Latin American art that made its way to the Walker a few years back. She also co-curated the Walker's wildly popular Fluxus show of 1993, among others.)

Here's the first bit of the MIA's press release:
Minneapolis, MN, June 24, 2008 – The Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) today announced the appointment of Elizabeth Neilson Armstrong as its new Assistant Director for Exhibitions and Programs and Curator of Contemporary Art. Recognized for her long record of innovative exhibitions and publications, Armstrong currently serves as Deputy Director for Programs and Chief Curator at the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach, California. Armstrong, who will be a member of the MIA's senior management team, assumes her new position at the MIA in August 2008.

"Ms. Armstrong's extensive experience in exhibitions, programs, and management is a great addition to the MIA, as we plan for the future," said Kaywin Feldman, Director and President of the MIA. "We are very happy to have this talented museum leader join us during a time of strategic change and growth. With Ms. Armstrong on board, we are excited about expanding our contemporary art programming and further invigorating our historic collections by making new connections to contemporary world cultures."

Armstrong's previous positions include Acting Director and Chief Curator at the Orange County Museum of Art; Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego; Associate Curator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; Curatorial Assistant at the Lowie Museum of Anthropology in Berkeley, California; Research Assistant at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Grants Administrator at the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington, D.C.

During her career, Armstrong has been responsible for developing highly successful publications, exhibitions and related programs, including Ultrabaroque: Aspects of Post-Latin American Art (2000), three California Biennials (2002, 2004, 2006), Girl's Night Out (2003), Mary Heilmann Retrospective (2007), and Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury (2007). In addition, Armstrong was the organizing curator for American Moderns: Villa America, 1900–1950, which was an innovative and well-received paintings exhibition on view at the MIA in 2005–6.

Broken Crow in Paris

Minneapolis artist Broken Crow hits Paris with Vexta. More Broken Crow (aka John Grider) here.


Breaking: Top Walker curator Vergne to leave for Dia

Word from good sources at the Walker Art Center today is that chief curator Philippe Vergne has announced his resignation and will be leaving to go to New York's Dia (Dia Art Foundation). I've emailed Vergne seeking confirmation, but haven't heard back. Update: The New York Times confirms that Vergne will be Dia's director, starting Sept. 15.

Vergne, who co-curated the '06 Whitney Biennial, has been a driving force behind some of the more interesting Walker shows during his 10 years in Minneapolis, from the recent Huang Yong Ping retrospective to his three-artist Heart of Darkness show (which featured Thomas Hirschhorn's haunting Cavemanman) to How Latitudes Become Forms: Art in a Global Age, a curatorial group effort that benefited mightily from his vision. In 2005, he left the Walker to head up a new art center in Paris funded by Francois Pinault, but the project never materialized as planned, leaving Vergne free to return to Minneapolis. Last year, when his mentor, Walker director Kathy Halbreich, announced she'd be leaving (she landed at MoMA), Vergne was rumored to be on the short list to replace her; Olga Viso, former Hirshhorn director, was named to the post instead.

Vergne's departure is a huge loss for the Walker and Minneapolis, and I wish him only the best.

Photo: Cameron Wittig, Walker Art Center


Truth-seeking: On St. Paul's historic Liberia hearings

This excellent piece by Anna Pratt is one of the more difficult I've had to edit, because the topic -- atrocities committed during Liberia's 14-year civil war (ended in 2003) -- is so incomprehensibly horrific, but also because, in one case, fact-checking meant talking over the back fence to my next-door neighbor about the struggles and sadness her family has faced. It's an important story -- about the historic truth-and-reconciliation hearings held in St. Paul last week -- but unfortunately it's the kind of thing that likely won't get much play in the blogs. So, here, meet my neighbor, Vereata, and hear some stories that are probably all too common among the 30,000 or so Liberian immigrants now living in Minnesota.


Get it? WHITE House...

Spotted for sale at last weekend's state Republican convention in Texas.

How to opt out of phonebook deliveries

With aggravating frequency and on a timeline I don't understand, a bagged block of Yellow Pages is delivered to my house. I didn't ask for it and, except for the three-incher propping up my laptop right now, I don't use it. Turns out I'm not alone. Ed Kohler writes that 85 percent of these un-asked-for deliveries end up in the garbage, not in recycling bins, and oftentimes in foreclosure-struck neighborhoods like mine they're a welcome sign to copper thieves looking for vacant homes. Thankfully, there's a solution: Opt out.


What the devil? Richard Dawkins tweets

Atheist evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, long thought to be the devil himself by conservative Christian creationists, is on Twitter. And let it be known that until I started following him this afternoon, he had 666 followers. Coincidence?


Found on Flickr: Problems

This is from 2005 but is especially fitting today, with the foreclosure crisis hitting my neighborhood especially hard, $4+/gal gas, and the protracted war in Iraq Gov. Tim Pawlenty's pal (and possible runningmate) John McCain is so interested in.

$4/gal gas news to Bush

Three months ago (when this clip was posted), it seemed $4/gallon gas was unthinkable to the prez. Monday prices here in Minneapolis jumped 20 cents overnight, to $4.09/gallon.


Audio/Video from the National Conference for Media Reform

I spent much of this weekend at the National Conference for Media Reform here in Minneapolis, although, to be honest, the most gratifying parts were the ad hoc sessions (sometimes involving beer) with local mediamakers. Above, a slideshow from the weekend (I don't appear in any shots, but Chuck Olsen captured this screen grab -- note typos in my name and the name of our site -- from Sunday's Live from Main Street event). Below, audio from a panel I moderated on the changing role of critics in a new-media age.

The Minnesota Independent launches!

The thing that's been consuming my waking (and sleeping: I've been dreaming of html code and Twitter feeds) hours for the past two weeks has finally come to fruition: Behold, Minnesota Monitor has become the Minnesota Independent. Same great staff of writers, same independent-minded, nonprofit reporting; a whole new design. Special thanks to Planet Propaganda for the amazing branding and design work. Now, go, sign up for our RSS feed and change your blogrolls!


Video: O'Reilly Factor ambush on Moyers backfires in Minneapolis

One of the worst kept secrets at this weekend's National Conference for Media Reform at the Minneapolis Convention Center is that Bill O'Reilly's Fox News show sent a crew to record the "real nuts" who are advocating for changes in the media -- "the furthest left people in the face of America," according to O'Reilly. He promises to show footage on Monday of what the crew captured. O'Reilly's teaser suggests it'll be anything but "fair and balanced." On his show he said, "I gotta tell you, these people are crazy."

Noah Kunin from The UpTake has been tracking the crew all weekend as they've been trying to compile footage for Monday's piece. He was there when a producer from The O'Reilly Factor ambushed Bill Moyers after his talk Saturday morning -- or, more accurately, tried to ambush him.

Moyers, uncowed, turned the table on the under-gunned producer, inviting him to appear on next Friday's show. "If you can't come on my show, send somebody below you. Send Bill O'Reilly," he said. "Bill is not a journalist, he's a pugilist."

The indignant producers persisted in his questioning of Moyers, but the PBS mainstay fired back, with a kinder approach. "I like to honor the people who do the real work in journalism; that's the producers and reporters," he said. "It isn't anchors. It isn't blowhards."

The producer's feeble comback to Moyers' anchors-and-blowhard dig: "That's you."

Look for more on this altercation from The UpTake and the American News Project's Davin Hutchins who appears at the end of Kunin's footage.


Obama packs St. Paul

The Barack Obama rally in St. Paul tonight had amazing lines snaking throughout the city. And what a beautiful crowd it was.

I have a blog?

Wow, I kinda forgot. Not really, but life's been chaotic of late: we're relaunching the new Minnesota Monitor very soon, my editorial partner in crime just went on leave to be a dad (leaving me with solo editing duties), and I'm on some panels at this weekend's National Conference on Media Reform. [Will any readers be in Minneapolis for it?]

That said, I've got some interviews in the works for the coming days, so stay tuned.