5 - Fine Arts Center
Click Image for a Larger VersionCompetition at the Fine Arts Center Text
Competition at the Fine Arts Center
“I always make a stop at the Fine Arts Building. It’s people with a little bit of experience, who maybe just are lucky and get in the show, and people who are tried and true and well-known Minnesota artists who enter the show. So I love the variety. I always find it interesting to see what is there; sort of what’s been chosen. There is always a great number of things that I’m really excited about and I think are interesting and beautiful and compelling to look at. It’s certainly a part of the fabric of Minnesota and I think it’s wonderful then that it’s also reflected in the State Fair.”
That’s the beauty of going to the Fine Arts Center at the Minnesota State Fair. You might see something familiar, or in a sea of entries, you may discover a new and intriguing work of art. But before any art appears in the show, it must go through the submission process. Entering the art competition can be an eye-opening experience...
“You drop off your photograph or your painting, and there’s like, thousands of pieces of artwork leaned up against the wall, and you realize: wow, this is a stiff competition, like this is all of Minnesota coming out here. When I think of that room, I think of this very, sort of democratic submission process. It’s funny, cuz it’s just like another barn. It’s like the Sheep Barn, you know, and here’s the Art Barn and you have the crowds wading through it just like they do any other place.”
What a feeling when you receive the card in the mail that says your work, out of hundreds of entries, will actually be included in the Fine Arts show. At the artist preview you search for your piece…
“A big part of visiting the Fair for the first time when you’re in the show is that you have no idea that your work is. There’s so much work in there, that you’re trying to find it. I mean, you have to pretend to be interested in other people’s work, but really all you care about is: Where’s mine? Is it in a good spot and is there a ribbon next to it?”
Alec Soth won a blue ribbon for his photograph “Herman’s Bed” in 2002. Does a ribbon make or break an artist’s career? No. But the audience’s response is almost worth more.
“It’s one of the rare opportunities as an artist, that you can show your work to a really broad audience. The State Fair is unbelievable; you just have everybody. What I love about the State Fair as an artist showing there, is that you can go there, no one knows who you are, and you can stand by your picture and listen to people’s comments. And you’ll get the most honest perspective from the spectrum of Minnesota possible.”
Highs and Lows of art at the Fair
The Fine Arts Center is one of the oldest buildings on the fairgrounds. Originally called the Dairy Building when it was constructed in 1907, today, the building showcases an annual art competition open to all Minnesotans who want to enter. But this wasn’t always true.
In the 1880s, when businessmen such as T.B. Walker and James J. Hill amassed large art collections, there was a sense of duty to share their masterpieces in order to bring culture to all Minnesotans. The fair was the perfect place to accomplish this goal. So in addition to local artists, wealthy citizens with refined taste joined in to loan works of art for the fair exhibits.
Ten years later the pendulum swung back to the idea that art exhibits should reflect a “farmers fair.” Art exhibits scattered around the fairgrounds highlighted domestic pastimes like oil painting, hair art, and painting on shells.
But within the next twenty years, a reemergence of interest in national and international art resulted in museum loan exhibitions being presented alongside the juried work of Minnesota artists. As a result, the fair decided that a distinction should be made between the fine arts and crafts. Crafts were to be displayed in the then-Women’s Building (today the Creative Activities Building) and fine arts would have its own focus. This change injected new energy and increased attendance to the fine art shows.
Fine arts became so popular that they outgrew their space a number of times! The exhibits moved from place to place over the years before finally settling into a permanent home in the Fine Arts Center building in 1980.
Today, visitors to the Fine Arts Center can see everything from oil painting and pottery to printmaking and photography, all made by Minnesotans. It truly is art by and for the people.
What artwork in the Fine Arts Center says MINNESOTA?