MIA Gets Literary for Third Thursday


This April, Minneapolis be inundated with hot-shot writers from all over the country for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference. In the meantime, we can ease the anticipation by attending Third Thursday: Art + Lit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

The evening offers programming provided by some of our local literary organizations. You'll be able to build a book and letterpress a bookmark with the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. You can catch a performance with the Rockstar Storytellers, or enter the world of Antoine-Louis Barye's sculpture Theseus Combating a Minotaur as Sally Franson from the Loft Literary Center hosts an activity playing with words and art. DJs K.Raydio and O-D Music will be providing the sounds. 

The event also features MIA's ArtStories, a program that was launched when the redesigned African Galleries opened in 2013. Using iPads, ArtStories allows museum visitors to go deeper into the artwork with reading material and interactive content. 

Tim Gihring, who joined the MIA staff in 2013, worked primarily as editor for the project. "The curators are kind of the holders of information," he says. "So we had several writing workshops. The idea was that we wanted to engage people in an interactive way." 

Gihring comes from a magazine background, so he hoped to get curators to move away from an academic way of talking about art, which sometimes gets parodied as art speak. "We weren't going to do it that way. We wanted to tell stories the way you would in a magazine," he says. 

Writing in a magazine style allows people to talk about serious things, but still be accessible. "No one accuses the New Yorker of not being high minded enough," Gihring says. During workshops, they picked one object from the museum and spent the day "trying to write about it in a way that was fun and lively and yet got all the points across with less words." 

The iPad program also involved developing interactive software that allows you to poke around the pictures, watch videos, and scroll through an object. For the videos, they used historical footage and videos that gave 360-degree views where you can "go behind the mask that's hanging on the wall, or see into a bowl or ritual object." 

The videos also include interviews with African scholars, other art historians, and people from diverse communities. Part of the effort was to "bring voices into the gallery that otherwise were not there," he says. "We wanted to expand the circle of authority."


Third Thursday: Art + Lit

6-9 p.m. Thursday, March 19


Minneapolis Institute of Arts