Hail Mary

Daniel Ruen

Mary Altman, public art administrator for the City of Minneapolis, said she's excited about having the Mary Richards statue downtown. Achieving her office's goal of making art more accessible to people "means that you have to reach people at their level of interest," Altman said. "A lot of citizens will respond to this piece. And it will be a much broader audience than your 'art audience.'"

--Star Tribune, Thursday, March 1


In the wake of last week's news that television heroine Mary Richards is to be cast in bronze and permanently enshrined on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, the following memo was delivered to City Pages' offices by an anonymous tipster:


TO: Her Honor, the Mayor of Minneapolis

CC: His Honor, Executive Vice President of TV Land

FROM: Mary Altman, public art administrator

RE: Minneapolis, you're going to make it after all!


For a generation of women, perky and resourceful Mary Richards symbolized everything a gal of that era was supposed to aspire to be: smart, successful, saucy, and glamorous. We're confident that Minneapolis's latest public-art initiative--a bronze statue commemorating the spot where Mary famously tossed her beret skyward--will inspire a new generation of women to break the proverbial glass ceiling.

But why stop there? Our research assures us that it's entirely plausible that Mary-themed public art could boost Minneapolis tourism by up to 500 percent. We're proposing, therefore, that the city, in conjunction with the cable television network TV Land, commission other public art honoring Minneapolis's most famous resident. We've been assured that such a sweeping effort, in addition to celebrating the achievements of fictional women everywhere, would boost the city's approval rating by up to five points among citizens 35 to 50 years in age.

Needless to say, we're not talking about art for your typical "art audience"--you know, those fou-fou killjoys who would never, ever consider tossing their berets into the air. We don't think you should have to go to a museum to experience art; in fact, we strongly discourage it. In that spirit, here are a few other ideas we've been kicking around, each of which we're sure will give Minneapolis some real character.


TITLE: "The Assumption of Mary"

DESCRIPTION: Based on Michelangelo's famous "Florentine Pietà," this mural will feature the whole WJM-TV gang performing the Stations of the Cross. Picture it: Rhoda Morgenstern as Mary Magdalene; WJM's anchor, Ted Baxter, as Judas; and Mary Richards--beret jauntily askew--ascending into syndication.

PROS: Why not install this in all MTC bus shelters, where it can be appreciated by busy commuters, as well as the homeless?

CONS: Copyright issues?


TITLE: "The Ed Asner Experience"

DESCRIPTION: Have you ever wondered what it would be like to step into the mind of Mary Richards's cantankerous, though ultimately lovable boss, Lou Grant, played by veteran television actor Ed Asner? Of course you have. Now you can find out, with a fully interactive televisual experience located in Block E's new virtual-reality entertainment arcade.

PROS: Has the benefit of reaching people at their level of interest (that being limited to "Nick at Nite" and shiny objects). Brainstorm: Could we re-christen Block E "TV Land"? Consider possible synergy.

CONS: What is a "virtual-reality entertainment arcade," anyway?


TITLE: "The Colossus of Rhoda"

DESCRIPTION: In the Seventies, America fell in love with Mary Richards's best friend Rhoda Morgenstern, played by actress Valerie Harper. Later, when Harper starred in her own spin-off show, Rhoda, which ran from 1974 to 1978, America stopped loving her. Now we're in love with her again, and we'll prove it with a sculpture of truly monumental proportions, located on Minneapolis's up-and-coming riverfront.

PROS: Unlike the anemic public sculpture in other cities, our Rhoda will be clearly visible from low-Earth orbit. Which means that television executives and other important celebrities flying over our city on the way from New York to Los Angeles will finally be able to share in the magic that is Minneapolis.

CONS: Would riverfront development be hindered if the Colossus blocked the sun?


TITLE: "Minneapolis Museum of Mary"

DESCRIPTION: While the downtown corner on which Mary Richards famously de-hatted herself is the most famous local landmark from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, it's certainly not the only one. The south Minneapolis house currently occupied by Minneapolis Institute of Arts director Evan Maurer, for instance, was featured in the show's 50-second opening montage as the exterior of Mary's humble abode. Suggest that the city, using its power of eminent domain, acquire said house and convert it into a Mary Tyler Moore interpretive museum. Further suggest that the city then demolish it.

PROS: That'll show the art audience who's boss. Plus, citizens respond to the spectacle of things getting blown up.

CONS: None that we can think of.


TITLE: "The Million Mary March"

DESCRIPTION: Imagine this: Unemployed airline mechanics are hired to walk down the Nicollet Mall and, at a predetermined signal, loft their berets jauntily skyward. Like "Peanuts on Parade," with unemployed mechanics and, of course, berets.

PROS: Everybody loves a parade!

CONS: Everybody, that is, except the fou-fou art audience. What a bunch of killjoys!


TITLE: "Mary Lives!"

DESCRIPTION: It has come to our attention that Mary Tyler Moore is not, in fact, deceased. Bearing that in mind, it occurs that, rather than building a memorial statue, the City of Minneapolis could save considerable expense by employing the beloved actress to stand at the corner of 7th Street and Nicollet Avenue on weekdays.

PROS: As a provision of her employment, we could require Ms. Moore to toss her beret daily at, say, 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. (4:00 p.m. Central and Mountain).

CONS: Those art-audience jerks might be tempted to taunt Mary or steal her hat. Perhaps we could put up some sort of sign?

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