Andy Sturdevant and Sarah Burns at MAEP

A sense of place links two artists' shows opening at the Minneapolis Institute of Art's MAEP Galleries today. Andy Sturdevant's "Alley Atlas" and Sarah Burns's "midday" both pay homage to the relationship between people and place, but in very different ways. Sturdevant's highly participatory exhibition investigates the alleyways that make up our cities, while Burns has created a reflective, sculptural show that invite visitors to experience their own relationship with the works. 
In "Alley Atlas," Sturdevant celebrates alleyways. He presents large maps of Minneapolis, but instead of showing the street names, the piece shows the alleys -- something even Google maps doesn't include. Using survey data, Sturdevant enlisted the help of design team Studio Set to create large maps that have some landmarks such as lakes and rivers. On tables nearby, visitors can come up with their own alley names, and post them to the map. They are also encouraged to write stories about their favorites. 

In addition, Sturdevant has chosen a group of objects from the MIA's permanent collection, selected using a search for the word "alley." From Japanese prints to works by Thomas Arndt, James Whistler, and Vernon Nelson, Sturdevant offers a curatorial perspective of how artists have viewed alleys in different eras and cultures. 

MAEP curator Christopher Atkins says that Sturdevant does not always see his practice as an author, hence his use of designers to actually create the maps, and choosing works already in existence from the galleries. "He's designing an experience," Atkins says. "It's meant to be very welcoming." 

Because the exhibition is intended to be participatory, its success hinges on visitors joining in the fun. Hopefully, by the time the showing is over, the maps will be covered with different colored Post-It notes of alley names. People can also participate online by visiting

The other artist opening a show in MAEP galleries is Sarah Burns, who says that her work is entirely different from what she originally proposed. When she first applied to MAEP, she had planned to build a wall, create a body of work on the wall, and then rebuild the same wall and body of work again from memory. After she was accepted, however, Burns decided against it. "I realized that it was gimmicky," she says. 

So instead, she's taken the year to challenge herself to "make wonderful and beautiful objects," she says. 

Burns says she found inspiration from topiary gardens. Indeed, the exhibition has a meditative, almost spiritual quality, with the different sculptural pieces carefully placed throughout the room. Using materials one might find in a home -- cement, tile, spackling, even computer mouse pad foam made to look like delpht tile -- she transforms them into objects that emanate a mystical energy.  

Titled "midday," the body of work gives a sense of walking through a beautiful garden in the early afternoon, complete with a group of long boards with a painted green gradient that gives the impression of a horizon. Interspersed among the bench and various ritualistic forms there are also black shapes made out of iron that act as figures that fill the space. 


Andy Sturdevant's "Alley Atlas" and Sarah Burns's "midday"

Through December 29

The opening reception is tonight, Thursday, October 17 from 7 to 9 p.m. During the party, the MIA will also be hosting Third Thursday: Nerd Thursday with video game playing, beer, crafts, and fun, geeky activities from 6 to 9 p.m.

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